The story of a new garden and its birds
In January 1995 we moved into a house, which was part of a new development on old industrial land. This is the story of how our garden was created and eventually colonised by a rich assortment of birds.
A site with history
The slope at the front of the site after it had been cleared by developers ready for landscaping.
The site was on land previously occupied by a pipeworks that produced sewage and drainage pipes using local natural resources mined from the surrounding hills. The works were closed in the early 1980s and demolished a few years later. The building rubble was cleared away, leaving crumbling concrete bases that allowed willow scrub to establish. The habitat appeared to support little more than willow warblers and willow herbThe habitat appeared to support little more than willow warblers and willow herb.
The site is situated at about 150 m above sea level in an exposed location facing south west towards the coast approximately 20 miles away. To the rear is Winter Hill, part of the West Pennine Moors. The River Douglas runs down from the hill through a deep, wooded ravine known locally as Tiger's Clough. This area of mature woodland borders on the site of the new housesThis area of mature woodland borders on the site of the new houses. At the front of the site the land slopes steeply down to a development of houses built in the 1970s.
The work begins
Foundations of the new house with the view to the south.
The developers chose to plant the slope at the front of the site with native trees and shrubs. Silver birch (Betula pendula), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), hazel (Corylus avellana), alder (Alnus glutinosa) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)
When grown this would form a woodland corridor linking it with the mature woods of Tiger's Clough
were distributed over the bank, whilst a hedge of hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), holly (Ilex aquifolium) and dog rose (Rosa canina) was planted at the ends of the gardens. When grown this would form a woodland corridor linking it with the mature woods of Tiger's Clough.
When we moved in to the new house, the front garden had been turfed but the rear was bare earth and sloped at a steep angle down towards the infant woodland strip. Some of the trees had been planted incorrectly which meant that we had two silver birches, a rowan and a hazel inside our boundary fence.
The empty garden with its new bird table! Beyond the fence at the end is the new woodland strip which links the garden with the mature wood of Tiger's Clough.The first purchase made for our new garden was a bird table. We waited nearly a year however for the first bird to make use of itThe first purchase made for our new garden was a bird table. We waited nearly a year however for the first bird to make use of it, demonstrating the limited appeal of the derelict land for wildlife. We did however see evidence of hedgehog activity from the start. We began the garden by having grass seed sown in the spring and planting further spiky shrubs on the boundary. These included hollies, (Ilex aquifolium 'Golden King' and 'Silver Queen') Pyracantha 'Mohave', Chaenomeles speciosa, Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Aureomarginatus', Berberis darwinii and Mahonia x media 'Charity'.
The wildlife starts to arrive
In September 1996 we had our first excitement in the garden by the visit of the rare black redstartIn September 1996 we had our first excitement in the garden by the visit of the rare black redstart. This bird lives on bare areas such as rocks and walls and probably had been a regular visitor when the land was derelict. We have never seen one again during our time here but as the trees and bushes have matured, it has been replaced by a wealth of different woodland bird species.
The winter of 1996/7 produced a fair amount of snow and this was perhaps the turning point as far as attracting birds to the garden went. A sharp snowfall at the end of November produced bramblings, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, starlings, chaffinches and a robin on the bird tableA sharp snowfall at the end of November produced bramblings, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, starlings, chaffinches and a robin on the bird table. Later in the winter we added a wren and some greenfinches. All of these species except the bramblings became regular visitors to the bird table and to hanging feeders on an ornamental arch near to the house. Our new year's day bird list for 1998 consisted of chaffinch, blue tit, greenfinch, black-headed gull, magpie, starling, wood pigeon, great tit and goldfinch. At the end of January we also found siskin, brambling and redpoll making brief visits.
The maturing garden.Currently we have been enjoying a bullfinch year, with two pairs spending the majority of time under our arch, joined on one notable occasion by a great spotted woodpeckerCurrently we have been enjoying a bullfinch year, with two pairs spending the majority of time under our arch, joined on one notable occasion by a great spotted woodpecker. The corridor of trees is now very dense, with the majority of trees being about 20 feet tall. The garden has matured also, with a variety of shrubs that bear berries and also Buddleja davidii for the butterflies. A large herbaceous border attracts many insects and slugs and snails! We garden organically in the main and therefore only have fairly slug resistant species surviving though I'm sure the hedgehogs help to keep the numbers down.
We have been considering how to include a pond in the garden almost from the start but have faced the difficulty of where to site it on such a steep slope.
The garden more as it looks today.
We have now decided that it will have to be near the house where the slope is shallower but it will therefore need to be fairly small. Hopefully though we will still attract and breed frogs and water insects that will add to the diversity.
Overall the garden is a gradually evolving project that will never be finished. The mixture of plants, birds and insects is a great delight and the bird feeders near the house allow close up views of many spectacularly beautiful birdsThe mixture of plants, birds and insects is a great delight and the bird feeders near the house allow close up views of many spectacularly beautiful birds that have travelled along the woodland corridor to establish themselves in this new habitat. If you begin with bare earth as we have, don't be disheartened: much can be grown in a few years without spending a great deal of time.
|First published August 2003.|
Copyright Megan Scott 2003. Permission is hereby granted for anyone to use this article for non-commercial purposes which are of benefit to the natural environment as long the original author is credited. School pupils, students, teachers and educators are invited to use the article freely. Use for commercial purposes is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the copyright holder.|
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