Wildlife springs in to action

AFTER a slow start due to the cold spring our wildlife is making up for lost time. Trees are blossoming; birds are nesting and tadpoles thriving. Those lucky enough to have access to some green space will have noticed a definite increase in activity and what better place to look than in our own back yard?

AFTER a slow start due to the cold spring our wildlife is making up for lost time. Trees are blossoming; birds are nesting and tadpoles thriving. Those lucky enough to have access to some green space will have noticed a definite increase in activity and what better place to look than in our own back yard? With many species of wildlife traditionally seen in British gardens in decline, a new book Wildlife Gardening for Everyone shows us how we can attract creatures into our own patch.

Wildlife is continually facing danger as natural habits shrink or food sources are reduced by intensive farming practices. But with 15 million gardens in the UK, covering 270,000 hectares, gardens can provide a valuable haven to species such as stag beetles, song thrushes, house sparrows, pipistrelle bats, great crested newts, hedgehogs and bumblebees.

Wildlife Gardening for Everyone is a joint venture by The Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society and is based on their successful Wild About Gardens project.

The book is crammed with advice from a variety of RHS and wildlife trust experts on how to develop and cultivate a wildlife friendly garden.

It also contains many interesting facts, including the story of stag beetles. They are fantastic looking creatures which have become endangered. They are mostly found in Southern England and in the southern half of Suffolk. They remain as larva for three years, but adults only live between the months of May and August. Scientists aren't sure if the adults eat anything at all.

Japanese knotweed is one of the most invasive plants that have been introduced from abroad. Outside of Asia it has no natural enemies to stop its spread. A recent DEFRA report stated that the estimated costs involved in eradication would be £1.56 billion.

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Seaweed is a very useful material for improving the soil due to its nitrogen and magnesium content. However according to the Coast Protection Act (1949) it is illegal to remove seaweed if it is protecting a beach. Contact the owner of the beach and the local council if you intend to harvest it, to get permission.

There are approximately 12,000 species of fungi in the UK - although no-one knows the exact number. They give vital nutrients to trees and plants and as a result trees and fungi have evolved together for 130 million years.

Frogs depend on their external environment for their body temperature. They need maximum protection from direct sunlight to present overheating and drying out in the summer, as well as cover and shelter from frost in the winter.

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Wildlife Gardening For Everyone is £12.99 published by Think Books.

Contact Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089.

Weblink: www.wildaboutgardens.org

1 Fill a milk bottle top with sugar solution (1 tsp sugar to 20 water) or soak a piece of material in sugar solution and hang it from a tree to attract BUTTERFLIES.

2 Leave leaves at the base of the hedge - queen BUMBLEBEES often build their nests underground in old mouse nests in hedge bottoms and compost heaps. But in the last few decades two species have disappeared altogether. A bumblebee colony only lasts for a single summer.

3 Herbs are the perfect all-purpose garden plants. Thyme and mint provide a rich source of nectar for solitary bees and butterflies and MOTHS; fennel flowers are enjoyed by late summer insects.

4 Build a pond for FROGS. During the past 100 years the UK countryside has lost almost 70per cent of its ponds, resulting in the critically damaging reduction of a major form of habitat.

The harlequin ladybird is a new species that arrived in 2004. It out-competes our native species for food, such as aphids but when food is scarce it even eats other ladybirds.

Moles divide their days into four hour periods of activity, alternating between feeding, digging, repairing tunnels and resting.

The smallest live in between grains of sand; the largest in rot holes in old trees; they come in virtually every colour and display some particularly revolting behaviour!

Ground beetles are something of a passion for entomologist Brian Beversham who will be holding a training day for the beetle novice as part of Suffolk Wildlife Trust's adult training programme.

“Ground beetles are ideal for beetle beginners. With practice most of the 360 species can be identified in the field with a hand lens. They are also good at telling us about the quality of a wide range of habitats,” said Brian who, after 15 years in ecological research, now works as conservation director of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northants Wildlife Trust.

He added: “I first became interested in ground beetles when I was still at school. On arriving at Durham University my fascination grew as I discovered there was a thriving population along the local rivers! Their attraction is that they are relatively easy to identify and are active all year round so are also easy to study. Ground beetles display an unsavoury variety of feeding adaptations and defensive behaviour - these include squirting out heated steam containing toxic chemicals from their rear ends to put off predators and being able to snip open snail shells to eat the unfortunate residents inside!

“Colours vary from black and metallic green to blue and bright orange. Some are covered in blonde erect hairs; the smallest are less than 2mm long while the largest reach 4cm.”

No prior experience of beetle identification is necessary. The course will give participants the chance to find out about ground beetles and the fundamental techniques of species identification under expert guidance. Participants will learn how to identify the coastal and dry heathland species found at Landguard near Felixstowe where the course is being held on May 13 from 10am to 4pm.

Cost £20. Booking essential - cheques payable to Suffolk Wildlife Trust.

For more information please contact 01394 674047.

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