Gardening for Wildlife – does it work?

Gardening for Wildlife – does it work?

Most of us understand how native flowers stimulate more insects which in turn may coax more birds and maybe hedgehogs into our gardens and that is only to be encouraged but lets look to see if we can push the boundaries a little further and maybe stimulate some more exotic visitors.

Allowing our lawns to grow longer is good but having mixed lengths with some areas left to grow naturally is even better with a mosaic of habitats. By doing this I have seen a marked increase in our bank voles, wood mice and shrews in particular. When you add in the fact we are lucky to have quite a few mature trees you create the perfect habitat for owls or more specifically tawny owls.

We are not unique in this respect except for one other fact. We do not have any cats or dogs so disturbance is reduced, especially at night. Its little understood how the act of our pets killing wild animals is perhaps a secondary factor to the disturbance they cause resulting in seemingly perfect garden habitat not being used by expected species.

This brings me to the Wildlife highlight in our garden this Spring. We always have tawny owls about all year and the occasional barn owl flies through but on April 17th as I was shutting up the chickens (there are foxes and badgers around), I heard a long drawn out “Tissssss.. Now that’s a young tawny owl I thought but its very early in the year to be fledged and wow its in the garden.

Slowly I walked closer and closer to the growing noise and there at my feet, tucked into the base of a large Scots Pine was a little ball of fluff about the size of two tennis balls. It clicked its bill together as a warning and immediately there was a similar but louder sound up above. Peering up into the gloaming I could just pick out the shape of an adult tawny owl, concerned by my presence. I withdrew quietly and summed up the situation. “Always leave young birds where you find them” I kept saying to myself and anyway “Tawny owl chicks often leave their nest before they can fly”. I decided to place it out of harms way up in a tree but by the morning it was on the ground again.

I then put a wicker basket 5 feet off the ground sheltered against a fir tree with the little owl safely inside. The next morning it was alert with a dead wood mouse next to it so result. The adults had found and provisioned it no problem. These owls make that “Tissssss” noise pretty well continuously at night until they are fed so the adults can locate them.

Amazingly at twilight the following evening I watched a parent call “kewick” and the little owl in the wicker basket responded “Tissssss”.  At that moment a second adult appeared silhouetted against the fading evening sky and I watched it pass a dead mouse to the parent I had just been watching, before it flew down to the wicker basket.

And here we are a week later all doing well and see how its grown:)  But its only here due to our gardening and lack of disturbance



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