The end of Springwatch: Your questions answered
All of us here at Springwatch and Unsprung would like to say a big thank you for the amazing response we've had. You've sent thousands of your wildlife questions in via the blog, the messageboard, the Springwatch photo group and our new Facebook page. In fact we've had so many that, much as we'd like to, it would be impossible for us to solve all your mysteries.
Recently we blogged to answer some of your wildlife questions. Here's the next batch of answers to your questions from the last few weeks.
Nifty Sue said
Seeing your article on bees tonight has prompted me to ask you to solve a domestic quarrel between my husband Jonathan and I. He is refusing to cut our clover covered lawn because he says he doesn't want to upset the bees. Who is getting the best part of the deal? Is it the bees with all that lovely clover or my husband for not having to mow the lawn?
The answer here is both! Clover is a great natural fertiliser for your soil which helps to make our gardens greener, but it also attracts bees providing them with a great source of pollen and nectar. It might be worth noting though that the bees will lose interest once the flowers have gone, so as soon as the petals are disappearing you can get Jonathan back out there with the mower!
Lots of you have asked about what you can do to prevent squirrels and woodpeckers from breaking into your nest boxes to steal eggs and baby birds. Although you can install metal plates around the entrance holes, it is of course possible for a woodpecker to peck through the side as Mike W experienced...
Never fear though as nature reserve volunteer Alan Forster has found the solution. His "Fort Knox bird box" design has foxed predators on his patch in North Staffordshire for the last few years with 100% occupancy and zero predation! He built them to RSPB specifications with the addition of galvansied wire mesh on all sides, top and bottom.
Alan Forster's Fort Knox bird box. Image © Alan Forster
Neilcat is concerned that their cat might have been attacked by a badger since it came in with cuts and scratches. We spoke to the Badger Trust who confirmed our suspicions that this is highly unlikely. It is much more likely that this cat was involved in a scrap with another cat or dog in the area. Normally your pets will be in no danger from badgers and they have been known to happily feed alongside cats and foxes in peoples gardens.
Like most wild animals, badgers will usually keep themselves to themselves and avoid confrontation. They are very wary of getting injured as even a minor infection could be lethal. Badgers are built to dig, not to hunt or fight, and would not be able to chase down a cat. They might be vicious if protecting their young or backed into a corner but even then will do their best to get away.
Ampara wants to know if birds' beaks have feeling.
Beaks are partially made up of bone with a kind of sheath over the top. This is the same substance that our fingernails and hair are made up of, keratin. So a bird can actually grow its beak back in the same way our nails grow when we cut them, so long as the bed from which they grow isn't damaged.
The keratin layer doesn't contain any blood vessels or nerve endings so this part of the beak is not sensitive. In most birds there is a layer between the bone and the keratin on the upper mandible of the beak which does have nerve endings and so birds will be able to tell if there is pressure on the beak. However, some birds such as ducks have some nerves in the tip of their bill making it sensitive to touch, and helping them to forage.
Rosemary Baker wants to know if adders are born venomous or whether they obtain venom at "puberty". Adders are actually born live and are indeed venomous at birth. Adders are very shy though, and will usually slither away before you can get too close. Adder bites can be very painful but are usually not lethal if treated quickly.