As the world shuts down around us the uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives becomes more vital than ever. So, for my own sanity as much as anything, I’m going to keep a daily diary of what I find around my garden. Photograph the wildlife you can see from your window or in your garden and post your pictures on the ‘Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Table’ page.
I need to post two more garden news updates today to keep you up to speed with the fast-paced ever-changing world of my back garden.
You may recall on Day 35 (here) I made some Bee Hotels by drilling various size holes in blocks of wood and some wooden posts.
It was great to see that this inspired others to do the same. Although I did specifically make the point that you shouldn't drink red wine and listen to David Bowie when you are drilling it appears not everyone was paying attention as this photo sent in by Scott Ellis shows.
I was thrilled on Saturday, just four days after my Bee Hotels opened their doors, to receive my first customer.
This Red Mason Bee was busy tidying up the holes, giving them a spring clean in preparation for moving in. My colleague James Duncan wrote a great blog a few days ago about the natural history of the Red Mason Bee here
There's also a two minute film of her if you're interested in watching a bee popping in and out of a hole. But I find it strangely therapeutic.
In other news, you're probably aware how excited I am to have found a Grass Snake in my pond (Day 29, here). So I started to do some research to find out what I can do to help Grass Snakes in my garden.
I read that one of the best things you can do is to create an egg-laying heap. Female Grass Snakes lay their eggs in July and she needs someplace warm (to help them develop) and damp (to stop them drying out). A chamber in the middle of a compost heap is ideal. I do have a compost heap but it's buried away in the dark, so I decided to make another Grass Snake friendly heap. There's a informative little leaflet by the Amphibian and Reptile Group about Grass Snakes and how to make a perfect heap here.
I noticed one of the ingredients in the Grass Snake heap recipe was a load of horse manure. There's a gentleman 'round the corner who sells horse manure by the bag. He's a friendly little chap who always wears a suit and tie, which I always thought is a little overdressed for a job in manure sales. Anyway I grabbed the wheelbarrow and took a rare trip out of the cul-de-sac.
Last time I ventured further than the cul-de-sac I got into an argument and, lo-and-behold, I got into another one this time too. A woman started shouting at me because my children were running around in someone's garden. When I explained to her that they weren't my children, it was actually their garden and that I was just on my way back from buying some horse manure she still continued to have a go at me. Here's a tip for you folks: never start shouting at a guy who has a wheelbarrow of horse manure. How I found the self restraint to not fling some at her amazes me.
Anyway, back in the garden I found a sunny spot (as the heap needs to be in a warm location) and followed the instructions.
I'm quite proud of my Grass Snake compost heap. When it comes to piles of horse manure and twigs I do declare it's one of the finest I've seen. Compost heaps are a great thing to have in a garden for other wildlife too - Hedgehogs, voles, beetles. I'm planning on putting my vegetable plots in this part of the garden anyway so it'll be useful for me too.
And I'll always have a pile of horse manure to hand in case someone visits and starts having a go at me.