In the latest of our How to … series of articles – in which we dish out simple advice on ways to better enjoy nature in your garden – Keren Thomson sets out a simple way of turning an apple into a tasty treat that will attract more birds to your garden …
Here’s a recipe for young and old to follow to create an apple bird feeder for your garden.
Children will also enjoy helping to make this simple feeder but please note they may need a little adult supervision.
This recipe makes four feeders.
Step 1: Get your ingredients together
All you need:
Two large eating apples (any variety)
Jar smooth peanut butter
Bird seed and dried mealworms mixed (mealworms optional)
Apple corer or skewer Knife to spread the peanut butter
String or garden twine
Sharp knife (adult use only)
Large eyed yarn needle or child’s plastic needle – cheap and easy to buy online using search terms: “large eye plastic yarn needles” or “children’s plastic safety needles”
Once you’ve got all the ingredients together this is how to do it:
Step 2: Get mixing
Mix the seed and mealworms together in a tray.
Step 3: String and apples
Cut the string in approx. 4 x 40 cm lengths and tie a large knot in each length at one end.
Thread the needle with a length of the string.
Place the apples on the chopping board and cut them horizontally using the sharp knife. . *If using a corer, core the apple before cutting in half.
Step 4: Make a hole
Using the skewer bore a hole from the uncut edge through to the flat cut edge (use circular movements to make the hole big enough).
Step 5: Add peanut butter
Liberally spread the cut face and sides of the apple with the peanut butter.
Step 6: Dip in
Press the peanut butter sides of the apple in the tray of seed/ dried mealworms mix, ensuring well covered.
Step 7: The messy bit!
Gently thread the string through the hole in the apple.
Step 8: Hang it up
Hang your new bird feeder from a tree or post.
Step 9: Enjoy the birds
Alternatively, if you just want to place on the floor for the ground feeders do not bore the hole or thread the string.
In the latest of our How to … series of articles – in which we dish out simple advice on ways to enjoy nature in your garden – Mike Horne explains how to construct a temporary wildlife pond
Building a long-term wildlife pond takes some time in the planning and construction stages.
But if you have decided you need something for you and your family to do during the current lockdown why not get out into the garden andmake an unsuspecting object into a temporary wildlife pond.
It has long been known that the creation of a water feature does something to the mind that has no equal when it comes to staving off feelings of deep boredom or depression, and the satisfaction of adding a totally new aquatic ‘dimension’ to your garden almost instantly allows the restoration of ‘balance’ and harmony.
There is no denying that having somewhere new in your own garden where one can go to sit with a nice cup of tea or coffee and peer into the water to see what may have appeared overnight is an exciting prospect.
Here’s how to create a temporary wildlife pond.
Step 1: Choose a container to be your pond
I chose to repurpose a water butt stand that was hiding in a corner of my garden, although almost any large-ish object that can hold water will do. The bigger the better, really, so that the water temperature doesn’t fluctuate very much during the day (as that only seems to encourage algal blooms). One thing you could use is a washing up bowl. If you want you can also dig a hole to place your container in, but remember that you need sloping sides so that potential wildlife visitors can get in and out easily.
Step 2: Fill it with water
If you are a patient sort of person, you may well be content to use water from the mains tap to fill up your object and then wait a week or two so that the chemicals can dissipate. Alternatively fill it from a water butt.
Step 3: You may wish to add an additive
I often use an additive that instantly makes tap water safe for fish and wildlife, and which is very convenient.
Step 4: Acquire some plants
This might easily be done if you have an obliging neighbour who has their own wildlife pond. Naturally, you will need to observe social distancing, but if this can be done then all is well.
Ideally, you should have a mix of fully aquatic plants such as a mini water lily, oxygenators – such as hornwort, and semi submerged plants such as brook lime or water mint. Reeds and Iris also add structure to a pond. Stones can be used to keep the new plants in place until they develop a root network.
Step 5: Add some wildlife
Lastly, you need to introduce some small fully aquatic life into the new wildlife pond, and so do please ask your friendly neighbour to include these when they are bagging up the plants.
Water fleas are essential in keeping algae from turning the water into a sort of ‘pea soup’ colour, and having a few water snails and water louse are also quite helpful in keeping the pond clean and balanced. (Adding fish to a wildlife pond never works very well, as they eat all the water fleas and the water usually then turns green within a week or two.)
Insects such as water beetles, water boatmen, dragonflies, damselflies and caddis flies will find your new pond easily enough, and in a few weeks you will have many new additions to your wildlife pond.
If the pond is at ground level, then your local amphibian population will also be delighted to discover its whereabouts. On hot summer days frogs, in particular, will often sit in ponds to keep cool.
Step 6: Enjoy it
Good luck with your new addition to your garden. It doesn’t take long to create a wildlife pond – once you have a source for the plants and animals, but it can give hours of pleasure just sitting nearby and watching what is going on underneath the surface.
We can’t easily get out into the countryside at the moment – so why not spend more time admiring what is around your home. We are inviting you to submit photos of your garden to our Facebook site so we can share the delights with everyone.
Here expert wildlife photographer and Langdyke member Sarah Lambert gives us some handy tips on how to take better pictures without having to move out of our gardens …
The current restrictions on movement mean that many of us are spending a great deal more time at home or in our gardens than usual.
For photographers, this can feel very frustrating, particularly as the world is now bursting into life after a long and dreary winter.
However, most gardens provide a wealth of subject matter for the wildlife photographer and being restricted to a small area allows us to develop a more in depth understanding of the wild animals and plants that share our space – which can be the key to getting that special photograph.
There are several advantages to garden wildlife photography – firstly it’s literally on the doorstep, and, as long as you have a camera ready, you can pop out whenever lighting or weather conditions are particularly good, though getting up at dawn may still be a struggle!
Additionally, most birds and animals that visit gardens are used to human activity, enabling you to achieve intimate shots more easily than you would on a nature reserve or in the countryside.We can also actively attract wildlife to our gardens by providing food, potential homes or even going as far as purchasing pheromone lures for clearwing moths.
Figure 1 Garden foxes are generally much bolder than those in the countryside
If you are one of the people who are self-isolating, spending time with your camera near an open window can yield some excellent shots.
Observing wildlife and looking out at natural spaces is known to stimulate feelings of well-being, and during extended periods of observation you’re more likely to capture an image that illustrates interesting behaviour or some beautiful light. And sitting at home is generally a lot more comfortable than sitting in a bird hide!
Or, if you’re able to go outside, and are very keen on bird or mammal photography, now might be the time to construct a hide in the garden or purchase one of the many pop-up hides that are available on the internet.
Figure 2 Providing food attracts a range of garden wildlife. This Nuthatch was photographed through an open window from the comfort of our sitting room.
During periods of fine weather, garden flowers attract many insect visitors, and these can provide an endless source of subject matter, particularly if your camera has a macro facility.
Before you even get the camera out it’s a good idea to just spend time quietly walking round your garden, stopping frequently to watch what’s about. Many insects seem to be constantly on the move, but if you take your time, you’ll see that there are certain areas that they return to.
Many bees have favoured pollinator plants – the best way to spot Hairy-footed Flower Bees, which are currently on the wing, is to stand by a clump of Lungwort, which is irresistible to them. Later in the year Purple Toadflax is a magnet for Wool Carder-bees.
Butterflies often have favoured sheltered basking spots, while dragonflies usually return to a selected perch between hunting trips. Time spent watching is never wasted, and will potentially reward you with some excellent macro shots.
Figure 3 A Wool Carder-bee stopping to sip nectar from Purple Toadflax, one of its favourite flowers
The wildflowers, mosses and fungi that inhabit your garden shouldn’t be overlooked as a photographic resource and may be easier to capture than fast-moving insects.
Take time to look for interesting angles, stunning colour contrasts or intricate patterns. Many wildflowers look best if you take them from ground level.
Now that many cameras have flip-up screens, this no longer means you have to lie on the ground, though this can be a pleasant way to spend some time in warm, dry weather.
Good lighting is particularly important for wildflower photography – I enjoy shooting against the light in early morning or late evening, to highlight the translucence of delicate flowers or the presence of interesting spines and hairs.
Detailed shots of flowers are best taken on calm days with high cloud cover, when the sky acts as a giant soft-box, eliminating any harsh shadows.
Figure 4 The delicate beauty of Wall Screw-moss, a species present in nearly every garden
As well as more traditional wildlife and nature photography, why not try out some more creative approaches such as in-camera movement, multiple exposures and long exposures? Or techniques that you might not have attempted before such as stacking or photographing flowers on a lightpad?
There’s plenty of information on the internet to help you with these techniques.
Figure 5 Corncockle photographed on a lightpad.
While their reserves are closed because of the current pandemic, the Langdyke Trust are running a garden photography competition.
It’ll be very interesting to see the range of wildlife that you find, and the act of taking photographs will provide welcome diversion from the current situation.
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