25 April 2009

The nature garden

When I bought my house six or seven years ago, part of the appeal was the garden. It's a decent size, it was then a blank canvas (entirely laid to lawn except for a couple of mature trees at the bottom), and it is close enough to open farmland to have decent potential as a nature garden.

Now, all those year's later, I'm finally getting to grips with it. The smart family end near the house looks OK, with flowers and shrubs doing what they are supposed to. But it's the nature area that excites me: with wildflowers like Red Campion in abundance; a mature and natural-looking pond stuffed to the brim with newts, frogs, toads and myriad insects; bird visitors aplenty; Pipistrelle Bats in the summer months; and the odd surprise every now and again.

We've enjoyed a couple of those surprises in the past few days. Our irregular Mallard pair (a sure sign of a mature pond!) have been back more and more frequently, much to the delight of Charlie; and then tonight I got dragged outside into the garden by my wife to investigate a loud rythmic snuffling sound. Fortunately it wasn't the rapid dog we both feared - instead by torchlight we found a pair of amorous hedgehogs availing themselves of the shrub bed nearest the house. I hadn't actually seen a hedgehog in the garden for a few years, so I'm delighted to have them back.

Mammal of the day: European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), Britain's only spiny mammal. Generally solitary and non territorial, but mighty loud when 'courting'.

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