Gardeners and lovers of wildlife are being urged to give love a helping hand this Valentine’s Day.
By providing shelter, food and wildlife corridors, gardeners in the North of England and the Scottish Borders can offer space for wild species to come together, and play a vital role for the next generation of garden wildlife, explains Steve Lowe, Head of Conservation with Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
He said: “As mating season approaches, species from blue tits to butterflies are about to get busy building nests and laying eggs and with many species looking to hook up and settle down, this is a great time of year to offer some hospitality.
“With just a few changes everyone can make their gardens wildlife friendly. Contrary to what some people think you don’t have to let your garden grow wild. Feeding birds, careful placement of nesting boxes and planting pollinator friendly plants are easy, straight-forward things to do that make an enormous difference.”
Here are some of Steve’s tips for keen and caring wildlife landlords to help create the perfect love nests:
- Avian abode
It’s estimated that each year around two million birds fledge from nest boxes. There’s an array of shapes and sizes to choose from, depending on the species you are providing for.
To make a nest box extra appealing to couples looking to start a family, place it out of reach of predators. Leaving untidy patches in the garden, and growing a variety of native species, attracts insects and grubs which will provide valuable food for chicks.
- Speed dating
With males and females of all kinds of species ready to seek each other out, the fewer obstacles the better. In early spring, amphibians are heading to spawning ponds, and may need to pass through gardens to get there. Hedgehogs are on the move looking for a mate too. Creating a hole in the garden fence to pass through will help them make the date.
- Fit for a queen
The buff-tail is the UK’s largest bumblebee species. In the late part of February, the buff-tailed queen will emerge from hibernation to patrol for nest sites.
Taking advantage of the absence of other insect rivals, she gathers nectar from early blooming flowers. Once energy reserves are replenished, she searches for a nest site to support a new worker colony.
Dig a small hole under a bush and half-bury a terracotta pot upside down. With a small hole in the top, and a bit of dry grass or dry moss inside it, this makes a nest fit for a queen bumblebee looking to settle down.
- Boost for the blues
As early as March, amorous holly blue butterflies are on the wing in pursuit of a partner. Gardeners can increase their chances of attracting a courting pair by providing the plant their spring brood relies on – holly.
Once mating has taken place, these butterflies lay their eggs on the flower buds of holly so it is crucial to spare the buds from the pruning shears to provide the right conditions for the family to flourish. Holly blues lay another brood of eggs in summer, this time on ivy flower buds.
Growing some ivy in the garden will provide year-round support to holly blues, as well as many other species.