You can always find time to do a favour for a friend, right? A bit of DIY, a lift with something heavy, some technical know-how with the computer, even lend a kindly ear to listen to a problem. Surely, everyone can find a little space in their busy diary to squeeze in something extra?
Then I think about the last few months and try to imagine what it has been like for young families with parents working from home while reading ‘The Whale and the Snail’ to a 3 yrs old, doing quadratic equations, juggling the shopping, the housework, the dog and the meals, picking up the lego, trying to fit in a toilet break… I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
But I’m going to ask this favour anyhow because a) I’m not asking for myself and b) when you’ve done, there’s a reward! The natural world is a part of our world and many residents of Kirkheaton are already helping to sustain our wildlife. If you aren’t, then now is a good time to start. In this one thing you can entertain and educate the kids, provide a little light exercise, hone some skills, enrich your own mental health and do something good for nature. I guarantee it will be worth the extra effort.
According to the Wildlife Trusts, 60% of UK wildlife species and natural habitat is in decline. One reason for this is that the UK is losing 3 million gardens per year to concrete or tarmac, ultimately resulting in fewer homes for birds, insects and bees. We, in Kirkheaton, can do something about this decline because our combined gardens constitute a massive potential habitat equal to, if not bigger than, many UK nature reserves.
Kirkheaton’s 20% for Wildlife initiative is asking you to set aside some space in your garden, yard or land for the benefit of nature. Their message is in the name but it doesn’t really matter how much you do as long as you do something. If everyone plays a part, then we end up with a network of gardens where animals and insects can flit from one to the other. For more about this have a look at the 20% for Wildlife facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/237510974410945
And as March is here, it’s the perfect time to Spring into action! There’s some great tips for gardening for wildlife at https://www.discoverwildlife.com/how-to/wildlife-gardening/ but just to show I’m leading by example, here are a few suggestions from my own garden:
If your hairdresser has been closed throughout lockdown, you’ll now know that it doesn’t really matter that you can’t have your hair cut every couple of weeks. The same goes for your grass. If you insist on keeping it tidy, that’s fine, but think about leaving a small out of the way area uncut. Not only will it save you some time and energy but it will provide a home for insects and other small creatures.
Put up some bird feeders. Try one or two different ones if you have the space. Mixed seeds, sunflower hearts, fat balls and peanuts will attract all kinds of birds to your garden and give you hours of pleasure watching them.
Leave out some water for drinking and bathing. Seed eaters, in particular, need to take a drink regularly. If you have the space, make a small pond or sink a washing-up bowl into the ground with a small ramp to help amphibians crawl out. Ponds attract pond skaters, frogs, newts, damselflies and dragonflies – a mini water world of fascinating features.
Stick up a nest box. You can buy cheap wooden boxes with different sized holes for sparrows and tits. If you have a bigger garden, think about boxes which might attract the more unusual birds, like owls and woodpeckers. There are various websites which have plans so that, if you’re a crafty person, you can make your own.
Bug hotels need not be elaborate buildings although you can put one together easily using old pallets, bricks, slates and pipes. Alternatively, you could just collect sticks or logs and make a pile somewhere so that mini creatures can find their way inside.
If you have visiting hedgehogs, think about creating a hole in your boundary fence so they can move around freely. They need a large area to forage and ‘hedgehog highways’ let them roam between gardens.
If you’re off to the garden centre for some plants and seeds, think about buying insect friendly plants or sowing a wildflower mix which will attract the bees and butterflies. If you already have a lot of concrete/patio area, plant out some pots.
My final top tip will be a winner with everyone. When you’ve finished ‘The Whale and the Snail’ and all of your other interesting jobs, and you’ve done some or all of the above, sit back, relax and enjoy the action. This is your reward! When we had the dubious pleasure of going to work, we sometimes had to wait until there was a natural break in the garden before we left the house, for fear of disturbing the host of visitors to the feeders. Now that we’re at home most of the time, watching the birds is a daily feast of entertainment and joy.
It’s not that difficult and now is the time.