Forest garden wildlife

Cuteness overload in the allotment today. The baby wrens have just fledged and are bombing about the place like tiny balls of fluff, each with a tiny stub of a tail sticking bolt upright at the back in the way that wrens have. They are unfortunately far too small and fast for me to get a photo of, but it set me thinking of some of the other wildlife that has been seen in the forest garden over the years.

Birds easily top the vertebrate list, such as the robin that follows me around hoping for worms* or the crowds of starlings that hang out in a nearby cypress, swooping down in a continuous feed to take a turn bathing in the pond. They flit down lightly, splash around madly creating a mini fountain in the pond and then flap back up labouriously on wet wings. Sometimes however, all the birds fall silent and scurry for cover. That is when you look around for the sparrowhawk. One time when I was working in the garden I heard what can only be described as a feathery thump behind me and looked around just in time to see the hawk heading off with a small bird in its claws.

(*Supposedly robins first developed the habit of following large mammals about due to pigs, which dig up large numbers of worms and grubs as they rootle around. To them, a gardener is just a pig standing up.)

Mammals are usually harder to see. We had a young fox coming into the allotments earlier in the year. Andy, our local photographer, eventually got a picture of it but it had us guessing for weeks. One of the most noticeable signs of its presence was the fact that it really loved digging up my woodchip paths, presumably looking for grubs underneath to eat. It also left tooth marks on the floor of the beehive. Other mammals are more obvious, such as the young hedgehog that I found ambling down the path one day.

I pile twigs and branches up in a ‘habitat pile’ for hedgehogs to hibernate in, so it’s possible that this one came from there. Other mammals that can be seen in the allotment include the occasional squirrel and bats flitting overhead at night. While a lot of the wildlife is obviously coming in from the surroundings, it is very noticeable that the forest garden always has a lot more bird and insect life than the surrounding allotments. Wildlife seems to be another of the things that come for free with a forest garden.