Story and photos by Penny Philcox.
June is a really good month to be looking out for wildlife in the Burngreave area – either in your garden or yard, if you have one, or in one of our many local parks.
Young birds will be fledging (acquiring the feathers necessary for flight). If you keep a sharp lookout you are likely to see and hear young birds calling to be fed by the adults. After building nests, laying eggs, incubating and then feeding their young, the adult birds are often looking pretty worn out.
Young blue tits need 100 caterpillars every day and there can be as many as ten or twelve young to feed. Look at the adult blue tit in the photo, compared to the bright-eyed juveniles!
Adult robins defend their territories so furiously that young robins don’t develop their red breasts for many weeks, to avoid being attacked by their parents, which react instinctively and fiercely to other red-breasted birds on their patch.
If you are able to provide bird-food, try to feed birds all year long as they come to depend on our food. Keep your bird feeders well cleaned. Though feeding in the garden can really help more birds survive, they can also pick up diseases from other birds. Just scrub out the feeders regularly and put food out – little and often, as stale food can also be a problem.
You have probably seen in the news that bees, and insects in general, are under threat, but again our gardens and parks are really helping species survive. I used to think that we just saw honey bees and bumblebees in the garden but from looking more carefully I know we have half a dozen bumblebee species at any one time, as well as fascinating solitary bees. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a good on-line identification guide.
Insects love open, single flowers and you can attract them easily and cheaply by having a few herb plants and letting some of them flower, while also using them for cooking of course. Lavender, thyme, mint, chives and marjoram are all great. If you are buying plants for borders or tubs, look for flowers where you can see the centre of the flower, or for the bee picture on the packet that indicates insect-friendly plants.
As you can see from the photo birds love a bird-bath, which keeps their feathers healthy and they are great to watch when they are bathing. Anything shallow will work so long as the birds can easily get in and out. Something like an old shallow dish or wok, with a few pebbles they can perch on, will draw them in.