Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Forty-three

29 April 2020 | Posted in Michael Blencowe
Corona Wildlife Diary: Day Forty-three

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.

Day Forty-three

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. 

Scott Ellis

I was thrilled on Saturday, just four days after my Bee Hotels opened their doors, to receive my first customer. 

Scott 3

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. 

Grass snake heap

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.



  • Paul Lister:

    29 Apr 2020 11:30:00

    Hi Michael,
    Greetings from deepest Devon. I am delighted to see that you have still retained your brilliant sense of humour! So, professor of butterflyology – that’s brilliant. Also love your horse shit story.
    Folk in Devon appear to be a bit more relaxed than Sussex ones, but we have been deep in self-isolation for a long time now.
    We now have a lovely large garden chock full of all manner of wildlife and so lockdown has no effect on our well-being – indeed, it only serves to increase it.
    We did have a walk the other day down our almost deserted lane – wonderful wild flowers, hundreds of Ashy Mining Bees in a long bank, plenty of butterflies and birds. Long may it last and thank you for adding cheer to our morning.
    Love to Clare.
    Paul and Toni

  • Ginny-Vic:

    29 Apr 2020 14:59:00

    I would really like to make a bee house but my family are strongly of the opinion that I shouldn’t buy or use a drill. I have a screwdriver so maybe I could try that? I think this is a great idea, but if they lay eggs won’t you have loads of snakes – eeeeeeeek! However, this will sort the greenhouse sitch out as I’m pretty sure snakes eat spiders so you might be able to cut a deal for the snakes to make the greenhouse a safe space for you? I am trying to make compost and this week I ordered a Darlek to turn it! It looks better already!

  • Karen B:

    29 Apr 2020 16:03:00

    Hi Michael
    I just wanted to say I’m loving your diary entries. Not only are they entertaining but very informative. Highly appreciated.
    Karen B

  • Dilys:

    29 Apr 2020 16:44:00

    Thanks for updating us on the first visitor to your Bee Hotel, which may develop into a Maternity Wing? And well done for not covering that argumentative woman in manure, we would miss your diary if you are arrested.

  • Christine Dafter:

    29 Apr 2020 18:36:00

    Love the grass snake heap. I have had a large compost heap in my garden for over 10 years, and I have discovered grass snake skins and grass snake eggs, but sadly have never seen an actual grass snake. They must love the place to stay, or they hide from me for trying to spot them. I have seen them at Woods Mill Reserve, but it seems a long way to travel for me just to see a live one!!haha Hey ho. Well done with your successful bee hotel Michael.

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