Welcome to the first of our new look Newsletters. In these posts I’ll be letting you know what I’ve been up to over the past month, what to look out for in the natural world (including your back garden) over the coming weeks, any developments with our wildlife charity and its Live Cam network and special offers or other features in our wildlife shop.
Let’s kick off with some of the wildlife watching I’ve had the good fortune to enjoy recently.
RECENT SIGHTINGS AND ADVENTURES
I have been spending a great deal of time north of the border in Scotland recently – both for work and for pure pleasure. I must say, a huge chunk of my heart and soul belongs there. Perhaps it’s because my mother was Scottish (born and bred in Glasgow) that I find the simple sound of conversation with a Scottish lilt warms my ear and core. And the fact that some of the most dynamic wildlife to be found in the British Isles lives there doesn’t hurt! I spent a chunk of time recently filming ospreys hunting. Wonderful, powerful birds whose grace and charisma is revealed with super slow motion cinematography. I can’t yet reveal what project the filming was for, but fingers crossed it’s the start of a very exciting next few years!
I also spent time with my daughter Savannah watching dolphins near Inverness. We had spectacular views both from the shore and from a boat with the excellent Ecoventure Tours in Cromerty. I honestly believe there is nowhere in the world better than here for views of bottle nosed dolphins behaving naturally.
Then, time spent on the west coast of Scotland was graced with views of red kite in the south and red deer further north. I’ve been developing exciting new opportunities for wildlife watching tours in the region. All will be revealed as they take shape.
Besides my Scottish adventures I’ve been keeping an eye out for my natural neighbours elsewhere; highlights have included red squirrels hares and hedgehogs in Cumbria and hobbies, sparrowhawks and noisy juvenile buzzards in Somerset. On the Wild Meadows land restoration project the species visiting and breeding continues to grow as the habitats mature. This summer both Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler were singing regularly. A green sandpiper stopped by on the pond for a few days and kingfisher, dipper, grass snake and otter are regulars here too.
I’ll be running a number of Wild Days Out in the coming months and am putting together an itinerary of Wildlife Holidays for 2018. Keep and eye on our website for new posts.
We remain committed to our goal of encouraging the restoration of impoverished land for human and wildlife benefit alike. The flagship project at Wild Meadows continues to mature well, with new species arriving the whole time. This year has seen a sudden spurt in growth of many of the 2000 + trees that were planted five years ago. Some birch and willow are now definitely trees rather than saplings! Sadly, the ash have been affected by chalara (ash die back) but we are monitoring their progress and can report that new growth on many of the affected trees appears to be strong and healthy this year.
We are very excited to be working closely with another NGO on a project that we hope will launch very soon. This will further add to our mission of encouraging land restoration projects on a national scale with a local touch, and a strong educational and social benefit thread. I’ll keep you informed as the project develops.
The Simon King Wildlife Live Camera Network continues to offer a free insight to the wildlife of Wild Meadows and the London Garden. Streaming these cameras costs us in the region of £30,000 each year, so every donation you make (and every purchase you make from our online shop) helps us to keep them running. Schools all over the country tap in to these live cams as a learning tool, and over quarter of a million people watch the cams each year, all over the world. Thank you to everyone who has donated this year.
We continue to see great action on the Badger Feeder Cam. It also featured in a recent National Geographic Broadcast that charted live action all over the world during a two-hour special. I’m delighted to say the badgers turned up on cue!
The Bat Cam has been super active too, with up to 7 Lesser Horseshoe Bats arriving in the night roost to socialise and rest.
Keep an eye on Mini Critter Cam for the antics of voles and shrews by day, wood mice and voles by night. And, from time to time, the odd visit from a weasel and a grass snake!
The Bird Feeder Cam is visited by all the usual suspects, including regular visits from the Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Things are likely to get busier here as the cold sets in!
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR NOW
With summer slipping into the chill evenings of Autumn the sense of change is all around in the natural world.
You may have noticed a reduction in the activity around your bird feeders recently. This is perfectly normal at this time of year since in a healthy natural environment there is a great deal of natural food on offer at this time. That said, many urban and suburban regions have impoverished natural resources and here your garden birds will be very glad to receive your continued support in the form of supplementary feeding. In fact, even the Wild Meadows feeders (view here) are being visited by legions of birds, many of them the young from this year’s breeding successes.
This is a great time to visit wetland or coastal areas with a view to seeing the first of the migrating waders and other wetland bird species. Almost anything can turn up, especially after a spell of strong winds. As the days grow shorter through September, listen out for the first of the winter thrushes flying overhead during the hours of darkness. Redwings have a high, sibilant contact call which pierces the night air as they head south away from their Scandinavian breeding grounds.
If you are lucky enough to have hedgehogs visiting your garden they will be putting on as much fat as possible ahead of their hibernation. Providing them with high quality food and places to rest will make their lives much easier.
Garden birds will be looking for secure roosting sites as the nights become more chilly. A much overlooked value of nest boxes is the role they play during the colder months offering roosting sites to a host of species, from blue and great tits to wrens and robins. Different designs of boxes offer refuge for different species with the tits preferring hole nests, and other species more open structures.
Lots of bat species will remain busy for as long as the hard frosts hold back. Many species breed in the autumn and will be gathering in suitable roosts to socialise. Modern buildings can be impoverished when it comes to suitable roost sites so providing a choice of places for a range of species will greatly increase their chances of successful liaisons!
Peace & Light