Gardening for wildlife was the title for the talk by Mike Fraser at the December meeting of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Berwickshire Group in Duns.
Mike who is Conservation Officer for the RSPB across The Borders and Lothians is well known to our members and he attracted a large audience which filled the hall to capacity.
Mike started by showing views of our open countryside, intensively cultivated farmland, the bare, sheep grazed hills of the Southern Uplands and dense, planted conifer forests which are all very poor environments for our natural wildlife. The area of land protected as nature reserves is tiny in comparison to the land area of gardens and with a little thought gardens can be a safe haven for a wide and diverse range of wild, native species.
People started growing plants in gardens a very long time ago,first for both food and medicine and soon pleasure gardens were developed which were paradise for the users. Now our gardens are used for recreation, growing food and just sheer pleasure and gardening is now a very big business.
No matter how big or small a garden is, be it a balcony attached to a city flat or a large countryside estate, gardens can be a great ecological oasis. Wildlife is not confined to just birds on feeders in winter or butterflies flitting around our flowers in summer, a mix of all sorts of wildlife is essential whither they be a small fly, wasp, frog or fungus, all live together and require each other for a successful co-existence.
When we go out to buy plants we should select species and varieties which are rich providers of pollen and nectar, they are just as colourful and easy to grow as plants that do nothing for wildlife and there are plenty books and information online to give you help and guidance as to what you should plant. Native plants or selections of native flowers are also preferable.
If possible provide a pond, even a small one will provide a home to many creatures and water for birds to drink and bathe in. Some old wood or insect nest made from stacks of twigs will provide a home for lots of creatures if tucked away in some sheltered corner.
Bird feeders and nest boxes are a great way of giving our birds a helping hand. It is essential that the area around bird feeders is kept clean with the removeal of old discarded seed husks and spilt food and bird baths should be washed out regularly as a build up of pests and disease can soon occur where there are lots of birds congregating.