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The end of Springwatch: Your questions answered

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Jeremy Torrance web producer Jeremy Torrance web producer | 17:15 UK time, Thursday, 16 June 2011

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.

Fort knox bird box by Alan Forster

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.


  • Comment number 1.

    please keep the webcam on for atleast another week

  • Comment number 2.

    we have baby giant land snails what is the best way to get rid of them?

  • Comment number 3.

    Your comments about ospreys breeding for the first time this year is not correct ospreys have been breeding near Porthmadog since 2005 and this year the first egg was laid at the beginning of April

  • Comment number 4.

    I always thought that Herons fed only on fish, however,

    whilst moored up on Westwick Lock, Newby Hall, I watch an adult Heron trying to swallow a large dead rabbit whole!
    ? Incredible!!! Rose Nelson. York

  • Comment number 5.

    How long can a Frog and a Toads toung get and how many insects do they eat in one day? Please answer I have always woundered!!

  • Comment number 6.

    Chris - where is the best area of the New Forest to see widest variety of birds

  • Comment number 7.

    Do birds and animals become confused during eclipes From Kerian 9yrs and Catherine 8 yrs and Kyle Turner 4Yrs

  • Comment number 8.

    Do Grey Squirrels eat little owls chicks?

  • Comment number 9.

    Re Blackbirds - we have been very fortunate, we have two successful nest in our garden - they have raised two brodds each and we have two families doi8ng extremely well. They are thriving on the raisins we are giving them daily and come into our kitchen to beg for them!!!!!

  • Comment number 10.

    What are the chances that for Autumn watch this year or even better for Springwatch next year you could maybe get a camera on A Golden eagles nest, Goshawk or a White tailed Sea eagle? I am fasinated With B.O.P and can't recall to much being documented on T.v regarding them Birds of prey... However Goshawk has been on the show before... Yours sincerly Tony Knight

  • Comment number 11.

    A really superb three weeks - excellently presented.
    Are there any plans to issue some of the superb footage on a DVD??
    Many thanks for a terrific learning experience.

  • Comment number 12.

    I was impressed to see the foxes on the landfill at Pitsea but why was Liz wearing a protective helmet in a field? Was there a danger that I could not see?

  • Comment number 13.

    My husband has just seen a bird on the edge of the industrial park at Poyle, Heathow Airport. It ran fast across the road so assuming it cannot fly, it looked similar to a bantum, we have quail so he knew it was not one. It was the size of a coote but brown. Does anyone know what it may be?

  • Comment number 14.

    Everyday at around 4 to 5ish in the afternoon there would be a group of around 20-30 magpies gathering at a tree in the park across the road from my house and strangely this is not the place for them to roost for the night as they all will fly away afterwards and they are nowhere to be seen. Can anybody explain this phenomenon?

  • Comment number 15.

    little humble 2 Chase them away.

  • Comment number 16.

    Re bee orchids,never struck me before,how does a plant know what a bee looks and smells like to enable it to take on it's appearance and scent,also not too sure about 'bat stoning'-safer with a hankie!

  • Comment number 17.

    Hello Chris, Loved the grass snake hatchery, hope to be able to see some of the little'uns emerge later? Please can you explain more about those tiny white mites that were all over the snakes? Thank you.

  • Comment number 18.

    Can you please tell me where the Bat Survey is on the Website. I have 2 bats of my own (Bertie and Beartrice!) who have been flying around my cottage every Spring and Summer for the last 10 years so I'd like to enter them on the survey.

  • Comment number 19.

    Can you tell me about Ladybirds, I have seen so many with various different spots. Is it worth investing in the ladybird house I saw at the garden centre

  • Comment number 20.

    hi would the badgers hurt the fox puppies they are so small i worry about them i feed the badgers at one corner the foxes think they own the garden it is funny got a good picture of two cats and the foxes eating together it was great to see the foxes get a bad name but your domestic animals have done a lot of attacks they havent i will always stick up for them and wear my t shirt save the foxes sheena

  • Comment number 21.

    Can you solve a problem - our resident wood pigeons have begun to strip the leaves from one of our lilac trees -why!!

  • Comment number 22.

    housemartins nested regularly on my friends house until 4 years ago, this year a pair returned and worked hard to build a new nest, great excitement. however when finished sparrows who are in great abundance quickly took over the nest, and although the housemartins swooped in a few times the sparrows are now in residence. great disapointment. is this a common thing to happen, or a new phenomena,

  • Comment number 23.

    I have a small pond in my back garden and I find a lot of wildlife in it, today I found some small white eggs amongst the algae and I am unsure of what sort they are. There are dozens of them, some of them appear to have a clear sack around them. The eggs are approximately 2mm, but some are smaller. They don't float like frog or toads eggs and were not layed in a certain place; they were all over the pond. There are also many yellow and orange eggs around the roots of the waterlillies. They don't have a sack around them but are about the same size. Do you have an idea of what sort of eggs they are?

  • Comment number 24.

    please help i have a rescued young pidgeon ,what do i feed it many thanks.

  • Comment number 25.

    marion- if you have any corn that will be good for it!

  • Comment number 26.

    I took my young Grandson to our local park in the town,it has a large lake with ducks,geese and swans,while we were there I saw to my horror at least 6male ducks attacking a female duck,they were holding this duck under water and they had pecked the top of her head raw,was this a case of mating or were they trying to kill her,I'm afraid that I couldn't stay to watch,I found it terribly upsetting.I love nature but sometimes it's so cruel.

  • Comment number 27.

    Can anyone tell me why I am finding dead bees in and around my garden. I live by a wood so it's not pesticides from farm land. I have seen lots!

  • Comment number 28.

    Pigeon, pigeon, PIGEON!! Walter Pidgeon was an actor!

  • Comment number 29.

    I've noticed a lot more ladybirds around this year , has anybody else ?

  • Comment number 30.

    otter 29 No, we've seen less.

  • Comment number 31.

    Wednesday morning we saw a very unusual bird in our garden. It was hopping along our garden fence. We did not get a good look at it before it moved away, but it was a very dark colour - dark grey or even black, with a very vivid streak of bright blue feathers along its wings. It was of medium size, about the size of a pigeon and the face appeared to be slightly hawk - like. we did not notice the colour of the beak, so I presume that it was dark. Could anyone let us know what is the name of the bird? I posted this question on the messageboard, but to date have not received a name which answered the question, although several people have replied.

  • Comment number 32.

    Does anybody like me find it hard to identify fledgling birds in the garden? Tits especially, I can identify blue tits as they have black mask over there eyes (a bit like a robbers mask), The great tits are little like an adult but the black stripe down the centre of there chest is missing or very faint, the coal tits just look to me like a jumble of black white and grey. Don't get me started about the juvenile robins, They look a bit like a female sparrow or a dunnock. Ill be glad when they all have grown up.

  • Comment number 33.

    We were sitting in the conservatory this morning, when a blowfly came in. It seemed to be flying madly around, banging into the glass, etc. Suddenly it fell to the floor, apparently dead. My wife dispatched it as we didn't want it in the house, and we found that it was full of live maggots suggesting it had been parasitised by another insect. We have never noticed anything like this before. thought it might be of interest



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