Saturday, 5 September 2009

Wildlife Gardening

Due to family illness and holidays, I missed August at Paxton and was largely confined to quarters. It certainly made me appreciate the value of a garden, and I found every opportunity to hang out the laundry so I could scan the sky for hawks. To get outside more, I even washed things that didn't need washing. I regularly see hobbies, buzzards, sparrowhawks and kestrels over Brampton and this week I added a peregrine. Kites and ospreys have turned up in previous autumns. However, mostly the sky is empty, but the garden itself has lots of wildlife such as frogs, butterflies and dragonflies to point my camera at.

Returning to the Reserve on Friday I was delighted to see that the wildlife garden has just kept on blooming, and it's attracting a lot of insects. If you pop down there this week, have a look behind the bench at the patch which we sowed with wildflower seeds. It's dominated by white, daisy-like corn chamomile with the odd blue cornflower, purple corncockle and yellow corn marigold. There's even the odd late poppy. All of these flowers are bringing in the hover flies and few butterflies too, particularly commas at the moment.

The pond attracts dragonflies all summer long. At the moment we have a lot of common darters, which are red. We get ruddy darters too which are similar to common darters, but have a narrow waist in their tail. The most common autumn dragonfly is the migrant hawker which strays a long way from water, often chasing flies around woodland and gardens. They move north through Europe in summer, reaching us in August, but they don't breed here. I love the way they check you out to see if you have any flies on you. I presume they acquired this habit by following cattle, horses or deer.

In the next few weeks, we may get a few more migrant insects, but most of our flowers will have finished. The bird table will attract more birds, but the garden will get more disturbance than usual. Work is about to begin on our extension to the visitors' centre. The hybrid poplars that overhung the centre have already gone and the spindle bush has been moved. We will still have access to the centre and the garden but the contractors will use the path on the far side of the building.