Saturday 26 October 2013

Garden schmarden

The garden at Tense Towers has not appeared in these pages very often of late. Various factors have combined to bring about this lamentable situation, so I thought I would offer an explanation and a brief update ('brief' as in I've just spent five minutes at the lounge window).

Not an up-to-date shot, I admit

As much as I would like to think that the focus of attention in the garden is our diminutive, wildlife pond, even I have to admit that dragonflies and newts aren't the be all and end all. Shocking, isn't it? The intricate food web in this small suburban space is dominated by its top predators, just like any other wild place. At Tense Towers, these are variously-sized bundles of feathers, with a penchant for invertebrates, seeds or other bundles of feathers. I am obviously ignoring the presence of the neighbourhood cats in this reasoning, as they are an unnatural invasion upon the scene.

For many years, we have been supplying an assortment of foodstuffs for the birds that visit our garden, or probably more accurately, the birds that visit our garden due to the amount of food available. This round-the-year load and the increasing number of visitors really began to take its toll last Winter, when it became apparent that something had to give. The lawn wasn't coping with the footfall from numerous Wood Pigeons. The lack of space meant that even moving the feeders around wasn't giving the grass any respite through the cold, harsh months. On top of that, the er... mmm... how can I put this... the... other end of the problem led to a build up of guano that wasn't healthy for anyone, birds or humans. Possibly the plants appreciated it!

So come Spring, once natural sources of food had appeared, we took the decision to curtail all feeding. We stopped putting out sunflower seeds, peanuts, fat blocks and over-ripe fruit, until gradually all feeders were empty. Our neighbours are reasonably bird-friendly (despite their cats!) and also put out food, so we weren't overly worried that 'our' birds would survive.

As it has turned out, what with our impending move, this was probably the best way to phase out the supplemented supply that attracted flocks of birds to Tense Towers. It would be highly inadvisable to carry out this task now, as we approach the lean months of another Winter, as the effects would be much less benign.

So, for these reasons, the garden has received less attention this year. We have noted that the quantity of bird species present has reduced dramatically, as has the quantity of each species. I guess this underlines how artificial the feeding regime actually was.

However, of late, a few signs of the changing seasons have been apparent. There's a little more birdsong to be heard at dawn and dusk (this is more likely to be a result of us being either awake or around at these times as the day length* reduces). This morning, over breakfast, we noticed that there was a fair bit of activity outside. Birds were taking advantage of a brief lull in the weather to feed, drink and bathe in relatively calm conditions.

For five minutes stood at the window, we were rewarded with a snapshot of the new order. No surprises, but still delightful to witness. Several Blackbirds were foraging on the lawn and in the borders, searching out 'tasty' morsels. Half a dozen Blue Tits pee-oing-ed from stem to stem across the garden, as they investigated the seed heads of Purple Loosestrife, flag irises, Pyracantha and ornamental grasses for tiny invertebrates. A Wren did much the same, but kept lower and in denser cover, before flying up into the Ivy which lines the top of a fence panel. There were a few Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves sat about, whose main reason for hanging around seems to be the bathing opportunities presented by the pond. Dunnocks hopped about in the damp edges of the lawn, never too far from the safety of a thick bush, and (predictably) a couple of Robins were fighting over whose garden it was anyway.

Overall, it's a quieter place though. No squabbling flocks of finches, no raucous Starling behaviour, no feisty Great Spotted Woodpeckers or cackling Magpies.

Coincidentally, those last two species will be in short supply in another place. And that thought makes me wonder what sort of wildlife garden awaits. A blank canvas of wall-to-wall lawn, a strict regime of straight-edged borders and clipped bushes or something more natural where the wildness flows seamlessly towards our back door?

*I know, I know, the day length is always the same-ish, I was referring to amount of actual daylight. Jeez, you people are pedantic. Er... lighten up?


laligalover said...

Where you are going I think a rock garden might be your only option!

Imperfect and Tense said...

As in a place to go and listen to some awesome riffs? That'd be cool!

Martin said...

I think the obvious question is not what sort of garden you'll inherit in the new place, but what changes you'll make to it. Is there a form you'll naturally aim for?

The change in bird diversity is fascinating, the density less surprising. The question is whether these species have become more common in urban areas since feeding with high-energy food became a frequent occurance, or that the country can support a larger population now..?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Er... windswept?

With the birds, I would guess that there have been winners and losers, probably more of the latter, sadly. With habitat loss and changing farming practices, there's not likely to be much chance of the countryside supporting a larger population.

Tales of a Bank Vole said...

Have you ascertained if there is a particular technique for getting sand eels into a peanut feeder yet?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Probably by using the peanut feeder as the trawl net? Is that very wrong?