Urban Wildlife Diary – November 2017
During the balmy autumn days of October I planted out lots of spring bulbs in various tubs and troughs. Planning for spring before winter has even got its coat on is a good way to lift the spirits. As I pushed each bulb down into the soft soil I knew that in a few short months these little guys would be lifting their heads and bringing colour back into my grey, urban garden. Well, at least all the ones who survived the quality assurance check from an overly helpful squirrel. No sooner had I moved indoors and he was rummaging through the troughs rejecting all the bulbs which didn’t come up to spec. No doubt he’ll be checking on them regularly throughout the winter months; I just wish he wasn’t quite so picky.
My efforts at tidying the garden must have been really aggravating for all the little creatures who’d found a winter hide-away only to find me pulling it up or cutting it back. Nature hates a tidy gardener. Just like we urban dwellers the garden critters are all trying to find a little space to call their own in an over-crowded market. As there is nothing I like better than to interfere with nature just to make my futile existence seem worthwhile, I decided to build them a ‘hibernarium’ some time back. I had seen this idea on the internet. It consisted of stones of interesting shapes with an array of holes, so you could put them together to make a mini-beast habitat for your garden. They were very expensive and I decided I could do the same job using what nature had provided; though I did have to buy a wooden crate to get me started.
Into the crate I put some logs on the ground floor as I knew these were popular hiding places. Then above that I placed some upturned flowerpots with just the hole side poking out in an inviting manner. I filled in the gaps with stones, wood cuttings and cut cane, for the little guys to crawl into. On the top I put an old chimney cowl which had been removed when the new wood burner was fitted. This cowl seemed like a perfect mini-beast hotel with entrances facing all sides. I could lift the lid at the top to take a peek inside, which was even better.
I knew that one or two large spiders had moved in as I saw them dart back and forth when I watered the nearby pots. Other than that I had no idea who my tenants were. So recently I decided to lift the lid and take a look inside the chimney cowl. Underneath a haze of cobwebs I was amazed to see some very large snails inside, apparently too big to fit through the holes. It occurred to me that if a snail crawled in at the start of winter and its shell grew during the hibernation months then it might not be able to get back out. Perhaps I was setting a death trap in the guise of a five star hotel? A number of the snails were clinging to the sides near to the lid while others lay on the floor. Were they dead, asleep or just waiting for the moment of release?
I left the lid off for few days knowing that those who were still active would take off for somewhere more sheltered. I was surprised to find that many of the big chaps lifted their skirts and departed. As I write there are still shells at the bottom – empty quite likely and one or two still clinging to the sides. Shame to waste such a perfect hidey-hole, so I think I put the lid back on for the winter months. Providing I remove it when the season changes then all should be fine for any newcomers who find that their summer silhouette has somewhat altered over the winter months; an all too familiar occurrence in my experience.