Monday, 1 September 2003

Wildlife friendly gardens

--Nature Reserves on a small scale

In the January 2003 edition of BBC Wildlife Magazine, Prof. Stephen Harris of Bristol University and Chairman if the Mammal Society wrote that the current British record for the number of mammals found in a garden stood at 18. But I have recorded at least 20 species of mammals in my garden in the past three years, and a similar number at a previous address.

In my garden just outside Bungay in N E Suffolk I have recorded over 20 species as follows:

Hedgehog, Mole, Common Shrew, Water Shrew, Pygmy Shrew, Bank Vole, Short-tailed vole, Wood Mouse, Yellow-necked Mouse, House Mouse, Brown Rat, Harvest Mouse, Grey Squirrel, Rabbit, Brown Hare, Fox, Stoat, Weasel, Long-eared Bat and Pipistrelle Bat. There is at least one other species of bat present, and within half a mile of the garden muntjac and red deer have also been spotted.

In fact, many people could expect to achieve this sort of variety provided they managed their gardens for wildlife – but they would need to live in a fairly rural area as well, since some species – such as mole, rabbit and brown hare -- are not popular in suburban gardens.

I think it raises interesting questions about what is a garden and what is a nature reserve. I was particularly aware of this as I am recently completed a book on attracting wildlife to the garden, to be published early next year, and clearly if the objective of ‘gardening’ is to attract wildlife, one is really creating a nature reserve. And conversely, managing the habitats on a nature reserve is only gardening, on a larger scale.

For example, the creation of small lakes and pools to attract wildlife on the World Land Trust'’s reserve in Patagonia (owned by the FundaciĆ³n Patagonia Natural), is little different to putting a bird-bath my backyard – just that one is around 1000 square metres, and the other is 7000 hectares (70 million square metres. And putting out peanuts for blue tits is analogous to letting the guanaco numbers increase so that pumas have prey.

Nearly all nature reserves need some degree of management, it is simply a question of defining the management objective, and if a gardener defines one of her or his management objectives as increasing wildlife, then they are creating a nature reserve. But there is no doubt, that in general, where nature reserves are concerned, big is beautiful. That is why as well as creating back yard nature reserves, we should all be trying to help acquire land for conservation in other parts of the world, where large areas can be purchased cheaply.

For further information on how the World Land Trust is helping conserve threatened wildlife in all parts of the world, please visit

1 comment:

  1. What I find amazing is how much life you find in places that appear completely barren - such as my concreted-over back yard (not my choice I hasten to add). I have now planted a few wild flowers (in pots) there, as well as herbs and vegetables, but prior to this the vegetation consisted of some persistent weeds in the cracks of the concrete and moss on the side of the wall only. And yet the place was full of spiders, insects, snails and slugs, all feasting on what little greens there were, or predating on the creatures that did. It is quite encouragning to think that an entire miniature world can survive in such a seemingly hostile place (small scale desert?), and to imagine what wildlife I might be able to attract if I actually put my mind to it and created a 'managed' wildlife garden.