There is a laudable trend currently to “Give Nature a Home“. I believe the phrase was coined by the RSPB in a campaign to get everyone involved in wildlife conservation and the idea is certainly a good one. It got me thinking and I have several anecdotes which I’d like to share with you about giving nature my home.
This morning I released yet another Ladybird into the garden from the confines of our dining room. As I write, there are 3 more wandering around on the ceiling in there… they will have to wait!
Growing up in the countryside and continuing to do so as an adult, nature has always played a central role in my life and not always outside the house. Not only did we have similar influxes of ladybirds in my childhood home, but they would often be joined by butterflies, lacewings and all sorts of other critters too. They weren’t invited as such, unlike the frogspawn in a glass tank on the kitchen table in spring, but we didn’t turf them out until the weather warmed again.
Summers were no different, solitary bees would try to build mud nest chambers on the posts of my parents’ four-poster bed when the window was left open during the day, and swallows would use the curtain pole as a perch. I was forever rescuing butterflies and bumblebees from the conservatory too.
My parents didn’t seem to mind too much and in other aspects were keen to encourage wildlife to use our house, putting up concrete House Martin nests, a Swift Box and a variety of other bird boxes and feeders. The House Martins took to it well, though I think it was used by Sparrows last year, the Martins choosing to build their own mud construction. The next boxes have been used by Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Wren and all sorts of others. There was a Blackbird nesting in the creeper one year and Goldfinches in the climbing rose outside the bathroom window.
Night time was no different either; moths would flutter in, attracted by the light, and continue to bash themselves off the lampshade in characteristic fashion. I was particularly stunned by an Elephant Hawkmoth in the kitchen one summer. Meanwhile a pipistrelle bat developed a habit for flying in through the open bedroom window and completing a circuit of the house, before coming to rest on the spare bathroom lampshade. There has been a bat colony in the roof as long as I can remember but this one clearly decided it would like to be in more comfortable surroundings!
Though it’s fascinating to see such things, I’m aware that when there are a lot of them, they can spread diseases or parasites. Because many of their natural roosting sites have been lost, it is becoming more common to find bats roosting in human structures. So, if you find a large number of bats in your home, you might want to contact a trained bat removal specialist who can inspect the situation and locate the points where bats are getting into your home and get rid of them as soon as possible. Though while doing that, my heart would definitely cry, I don’t think I can ever jeopardize anyone’s health because of my passion!
Anyway, in the house itself there are ample spaces for wildlife in the garden and farm buildings too. I will never forget helping my parents to clear out the hay barn one summer and coming across a nest of Hedgehogs, the babies still pink and soft spined. We carefully placed old bales around it to protect them from predators and left them while we had lunch. On returning we found that the mother had moved them all (probably quite sensibly) so we continued with our work. It was one of the last times we saw Hedgehogs in the area for nearly twenty years, but I’m pleased to report that they are back as discovered by the Labrador who barks at them when she comes across them on the lawn in the evening!
There are 2 ponds in the garden as well as a natural stream and I always enjoyed pond-dipping in them as a child. There are also plenty of areas left un-mown which encourages lovely wildflowers including Self Heal, Common Spotted Orchids, Lady’s Smock and Knapweed, all beloved by bees and butterflies. On Easter Sunday this year you may have also seen that I tweeted about an Easter Bunny, a leveret to be precise, and the first Hare I’ve seen there for a while which was lovely. I want to decorate my garden area even more after seeing all of the natural beauty and visitors. I’m thinking about putting in some Landscaping Rocks near the pond to make a pathway or just to add a decorative border to it. The landscaping rocks may give the appearance of a larger, more luxurious yard or a more intricate and beautiful patio. They can provide a sense of calm or excitement as well.
Over the years I’ve had some interesting visitors to my own house too: Leopard Slugs, Mason Bees, Privet Hawkmoth, Violet Ground Beetle, various Shieldbugs and a Wood Mouse on the outer living room windowsill to name a few. I also once found a Sea Slater on a friend’s living room carpet – they do live on the coast but that was rather a surprise nevertheless!
I have yet to finish all the touches in my own garden to encourage wildlife, but having already added plenty of bird feeders and nest boxes I am currently watching some chubby looking Blackbird fledglings hopping around on the lawn. We regularly get Muntjac in the garden too and I’ve marked out where the pond is going. Progress may be a little slow but it is underway and so far so good. I am always on the lookout for ideas to encourage wildlife so do get in touch if you have any you’d like to share. In the meantime, I will continue to share my own home with the Ladybirds!