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Stephen Moss Stephen Moss | 16:22 UK time, Tuesday, 12 June 2012

SPRINGWATCH gave me a call a few weeks back and asked if I could design a quick garden audit, to help us all encourage more wild visitors into our gardens.

In ten easy steps (and a bonus question), you could be on your way to a having a haven for birds, mammals and insects, all within easy viewing of your kitchen window.

Whether you have a pocket-handkerchief sized plot in the town or an acre in the countryside, we can all enjoy a bit of wildlife in our gardens.

Just a bit of fun, with a serious side - so tally up your results and feel free to share your scores and tips below.

1. Bird feeding station (4 points)
A bird feeding station is a good start for any garden - providing high-energy food for hungry birds throughout the year.
- BBC guide to feeding garden birds.
- RSPB feeding birds guide

2. Long grass (1 point)
Just forget to mow one corner of your garden to allow the grass to grow long. Perfect for crickets, grasshoppers, ants and small mammals such as voles.
- How to make your lawn wildlife friendly
- RSPB Lawns for wildlife

3. Nectar-rich plants (2 points)
Insects such as bumblebees and butterflies need energy too - so treat them, and yourself, to a flowerbed with nectar-rich plants during the spring and summer.
- Plants for a wildlife garden

4. Bird bath (2 points)
Just like us, birds need water - to drink and to bathe. A simple bird bath is easy to buy or make.
- RSPB advice on Bird Baths

5. Compost heap (1 points)
Compost heaps provide just the right temperature for creatures such as worms and invertebrates, which in turn attract birds. You may even be lucky enough to get a slow worm or grass snakes (try these links)

6. Logpile (3 points)
Piles of cut wood are an ideal hideaway for all sorts of insects and other invertebrates, as well as small mammals. And hedgehogs may even hibernate in there through the winter.
- Wild about gardens - making a logpiles

7. Nest boxes (3 points)
Once you've attracted birds to your garden, why not provide them with a ready-made home? You could invest in a nest-cam, so when there's nothing telly you can watch your very own SPRINGWATCH unfold in your back garden. There are plenty to choose from different manufacturers these days.

8. Berry-bearing shrubs (4 points)
Birds love berries - high-energy fruit to help them get through the autumn and winter.
- RSPB Birds and berries guide

9. Pond (5 points)
A wildlife garden needs a pond - even a tiny patch of water will bring birds to drink and bathe, frogs and newts to live, mammals to drink, and insects to feed and breed.
- Pond conservation - making a pond

10. Wild flower meadow (5 points)
If you're really ambitious to make your garden into a wildlife haven, then a wild flower meadow is ideal - hard work, but well worth it! (try these links)
- BBC Breathing Places - sowing wild flowers
- RHS - Wildflower meadows

11. Bonus Points: Get your neighbours involved (5 points)
Animals need large and interconnected green areas, so the more of your neighbours that have wildlife friendly gardens, the better it will be for everyone.
- The benefits of wildlife volunteering in UK

Your score:_____

24-35 points: you are a wildlife star and a fine example for all of us on SPRINGWATCH - your garden will rival anything we have filmed for the series

16-23 points: you are doing a great job attracting wildlife to your garden - keep up the good work.

8-15 points: your garden is already good for wildlife but could be a better - start digging that pond.

1-7 points: the good news is that anything you do will make your garden a lot better for wildlife - and, hopefully, you


General help about wildlife gardening
- Gardening to attract wildlife
- RSPB planning and creating a wildlife-friendly garden
- Scottish Wildlife Trust: In your garden

Editors Note: About Stephen Moss


Stephen Moss

Naturalist and former SPRINGWATCH producer Stephen Moss is one of Britain's leading nature writers and an expert on British wildlife, especially birds.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    One problem with this. At the top it says all the birds will be outside our window. Well, if you don't have a large garden, then your feeding station will be close to your window, and birds are more likely to fly into your window. This is not good, and I know it is true because I moved one feeder from the feeding station to outside our window and already a Bluetit has flown into the window and was left vulnerable to predators ( we have seen stoats outside our garden ) and could have been killed. I would advise people to not put thier feeders to close to the window.
    Thanks, Ewan (13)

  • Comment number 2.

    Good point Ewan. Certainly a good idea to keep your feeder a few yards away from your windows.

  • Comment number 3.

    Unfortunatly I live in a groundfloor flat. We have put up a birdfeeder from the overhang in front of the door and are getting birds feeding from it.
    There is a patch of grass in front of our flat which hasn't been cut so is full of daisies and buttercups and speedwells. Someone did come round to cut it but we asked them not to and they left it alone for us.
    It's not much but hopefully it will help wildlife a little.

  • Comment number 4.

    As an ardent feeder of birds and just having watched the Springwatch section on bird hierarcy on feeders, is it unusual to have jackdaws on them? They are too big to stand on the perch and reach the seed so frantically flap their wings for a few seconds. They even hang upside down on the bottom. They fly straight back down to the ground so are they pulling the seed out?

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi. My garden scores 17 from your list Stephen. But I think there are a few other tweaks and additions which could be made to. I reckon a lot of people will find it may up their garden ratings. Here's a couple of others I would add to it:

    Trees and other shrubs. Big or small, trees and shrubs are a haven for wildlife whether they bear fruit of not. Their flowers and catkins in early spring are vital for many species of insects, moss and lichen and in turn the birds who will come to feed on them, provide shelter and and shade and ultimately natural nesting habitats and nesting material. Bats use them to roost and to locate their landscapes and hunt. 10 points I reckon.

    Hedges. Privet and Hawthorne hedge for example, although often hard work to keep up to, are not only an inoffensive natural boundary for gardens but are also very valuable to lots of wildlife. Spiders adorn them throughout the year, provide food and nesting habitat for some small birds such as Dunnocks and also provides habitat for moths. Hedgehogs will shelter and hibernate beneath thick hedges and in damp weather where lots of slugs and snails are attracted to them - food for both Hedgehogs and Foxes. They also provide a nice natural perch and viewpoints for birds prior to flying down to lawns especially young fledgelings.
    What the heck - 10 points, why not.

    And Weeds: Yes, weeds. By weeds I mean wildflowers which might not be considered by most to be fit for a wildflower meadow. To name just a few Burdock, Dandelion, Daisy, Shepherds purse, Buttercup, Thistles, Forget me not. Nettle and the lovely smelling Pineapple weed or wild camomile -both of which can be used to make herbal tea although people must seek help to identify them properly if they're not sure! They to name but a few, all spring up somewhere in gardens or at the side of paths but are all to often overlooked and got rid of. I try to keep as many as possible as they all benefit wildlife such as caterpillars and Ladybirds, places for spiders to lay their eggs and they often provide early pollen for the first Bees and Butterflies of Spring.
    I'll give them 7 points I think

    And so you may just be a Springwatch Star! You may not necessarily win prizes for the prettiest garden, but I'm pretty sure nature would give you a hug and a pat on the back if it could.

  • Comment number 6.

    What's happened to the fox cubs?

  • Comment number 7.

    Very glad to see Springwatch promoting good wildlife gardening, but I think the scores for bird boxes and compost heaps should be swapped around. Bird boxes (scores 3) are not always used and benefit only one family of birds per year usually, plus a few who need shelter during winter or on cold nights. Compost heaps (which only score 1!) are brilliant as a habitat for invertibrates, which in turn help birds such as blackbird and thrushes all year round, and are very important as a habitat for slow worms and grass snakes - as demonstrated by the webcam (which was my favourite last year but is never on long enough!). Kind of disappointed to see compost heaps scored so badly.

    But well done otherwise. I hope this will make a few people think about their garden's benefit to wildlife a little more.

  • Comment number 8.

    [2. Long grass (1 point)] regarding this point Bradford council are obsessed with neatness and any blades of grass dares to grow above a certain height and its either mowed down or sprayed with chemicals. And I’m sure most councils are the same. There’s some rough ground near me with nettles etc (not in public view) and even there its not aloud to flourish. I have complained before to these faceless bureaucrats but its pointless it just falls on deaf ears. (and they say we live in a democracy!)
    PS: what is in those chemicals that obliterates everything it touches?

  • Comment number 9.

    Please, please, PLEASE, can Springwatch say something about ignorant people getting irreputable contractors to cut back their hedges in the middle of the breeding season?
    I am sitting here angry and helpless, listening to the awful sound of an electric hedgecutter being used on very high hedges and laurel in our neighbour's garden. These hedges are a perfect nesting site for birds. We can all do our best to protect and encourage wildlife but could not the powers that be introduce legislation to stop this happening? A friend did this a couple of years ago and was mortified to find he had exposed a nest of baby goldfinches which then became a meal for the magpies. This may not be the right thread but I don't know how to start a new one.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ponds get 5 points how many gardens of tdays house building plots have room for a pond - and how many young kids are drowned in these each year.

    So really a no no for town dwellers.

    So then lookking at these gardens tree and shurbs should not be planted to close to houses also.

    So more importantly we should be on at councils to help us protect our wildlife ie on the road sides by only cutting the first 6ft of ground and leaving the rest to grow.

    The middle of Dual carriageways be left to grow and not cut at all.

    Ponds to be made in parks.

    We wildlife lovers should not be forced to feel guilty because we are doing nothing when we don't have the space to help.

  • Comment number 11.

    At a quick glance, we have all, except the meadow is more of a weed patch. I even built a house for our chicken.

  • Comment number 12.

    Surely it is important to mention the obvious of not using chemical weed killers and definitely no slug pellets in your garden? On the issue of ponds, there are many options I have seen that are not much bigger than a bucket but can still be a haven for some lovely creatures. I am glad that points were not deducted for being a cat owner and really feel that Springwatch should spend more time on this subject as looking at the comments on this site it is quite a hotbed of debate!

  • Comment number 13.

    Maybe, if it benefits the entire of the UK, we should be pushing the government to make some of these law! Especially grass length number of trees per area etc. They would make a fortune from people not doing it and also if everyone did do it they would make a fortune through increased biodiversity (pollination, social issues, increased tourism etc)

  • Comment number 14.

    PS: regarding my earlier post (8) I’ve just been back there and it looks like the council workers have been back hacking even more vegetation! I’ve got a feeling they are going to attempt to turn it into a manicured neat lawn! Because its been untouched its for many years its full of wildflowers supporting bees and butterflies, Its an outrage what’s happened!
    Heres an example of how moronic the workers are; they strimmed back this heavy bush vegetation to reveal some old litter which will have blown under there years ago …but did they pick it up? ‘no’ I thought the idea was to make it look neat! This is just legalized vandalism (paid for out of taxpayers money).

  • Comment number 15.

    Only been in our new house about 6 weeks but we're already making a difference....a corner which previous people used as a junk corner now dads changed into a compost heap!

    We have an area of long grass down the end of the garden too!

    Now we dont have feeders as we have cats, so we dont think it right to feed a bird only to end up with it being food to our cats, but we do have sparrows nesting above our outside toilet!

    As of tomorrow at 12pm tho i am on holiday from work and me and my dad are starting on a pong for our garden and we're designing it ourselves, well i am and dads helping with the hard work! Gonna have a few different levels to it, gonna be a decent size and gonna make it a real wildlife pond! Currently looking into where to get the best vs cheapest liner!

  • Comment number 16.

    my garden scored 15 but i have had sucess with a wren family last year and a black bird family o9f two chicks this year i have a camra box for tits and upto now they have only roosted in it even though it is in the same place as the old one it is two years old so i wounderd if it needs to weatherise more for them to use it should i clean it out from them roosting and if so when thank you for your time janet from stoke on trent

  • Comment number 17.

    Guys - this blog is completely inadequate for discussing the issues raised by the Springwatch programme this series. It never gets a response from the production team. Whatever happened to the "lively" message boards?

  • Comment number 18.

    sig 17, I've said many times that nobody responds to anything here. Facebook, twitter, yes. Even other posters don't thank you for answering a question.

  • Comment number 19.

    My garden scored a fairly healthy 21 using this scoring system, although I am surprised trees and hedges don't get points. A good idea is to plant buddleias, which attract marvellous numbers of bees and butterflies and look nice, though can be invasive. If not, fir tree hedges (mine's 3m tall!) are perfect for nesting birds and we've had dunnocks, blue tits and blackbirds nesting there year on year. Goldcrests love them too, though they've never visited us. If you intertwine a fruiting or caterpillar attracting shrub with the trees it puts life for the birds on a plate!

  • Comment number 20.

    By the way, let’s not get all agitated about manucured lawns. Green woodpeckers love them. I recently had the privilige of having our regular common pipistrelle bat fly inches over my head and I could hear its high pitch calling. Has anyone else ever been so lucky in this way?

    Also, about the blogs I see your point davmcn, but as someone who doesn't use and can't make sense of Facebook or Twitter, these blogs are ideal. The messsageboards sound pretty good, but as a bit of a new boy, whose still settling in, I never used them but they do seem to better the blogs which makes their recent abolition seem frustrating. I guess we just have to shake off our reservations and love the resources we have!

 

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