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Colin Williams moved to Sandford on Thames last December. He works as a wildlife surveyor for the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust, and has a life-long passion for natural history and the great outdoors. In the first of his regular posts for the Talking Shop blog, he tells us more about the colourful wildlife which can be seen in the area at this time of year.

Since moving to the area, I have been busy recording the wildlife I find. Every other month, via the Sandford Talking Shop blog, I will bring you news of the interesting wildlife I have recently seen in the local area as well as let you know what you should be looking out for in the following few weeks. Perhaps you enjoy watching the birds in your garden or admire the wild flowers on your daily dog walk. I hope to give you a flavour of what wildlife delights we can enjoy in and around Sandford.

The sunny and warm July we all enjoyed allowed many of our butterflies and dragonflies to flourish.

Local buddleja bushes attracted good numbers of our typical summer butterflies such as Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. These species have struggled in recent years due to habitat loss and the overuse of pesticides. In recent days the scarce Clouded Yellow butterfly has been spotted in a number of Oxford gardens. Look out for the deep yellow wings and black markings. It is amazing to think they may have migrated from the continent to grace our local gardens!

Anax imperator qtl2

Male Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)

The Thames Path along Kennington Meadows has been a great place to watch the aerial antics of several colourful dragonfly species. Emperors, Southern Hawkers and Ruddy Darters are just three which have brightened up my weekend walks along the river. On one memorable occasion I watched a Hobby (a small falcon) swoop from a great height to catch an unfortunate Emperor just inches above the water’s surface. It then promptly beheaded and de-winged its victim before devouring it, all in mid-air!

Many of our local birds have now finished nesting and are preparing for the onset of autumn and winter. Mixed flocks of adult and young birds will be visiting gardens to build up their fuel reserves. Our bird feeders have been busy with family parties of goldfinches and greenfinches. Don’t forget providing a water supply for your garden birds is just as important as the usual nuts, seeds and fat balls.

The familiar sight and sound of overhead swifts and house martins will soon be a distant memory as they depart on their long migration to their wintering grounds in Africa. Why not make a note of the last date you see them over your garden.

Erinaceus europaeus (Linnaeus, 1758)

Young European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)

We have really enjoyed watching a hedgehog visit our garden throughout the summer, particularly as they have declined dramatically in recent years. The increase in badger numbers (which predate hedgehogs), habitat loss and the popular use of slug pellets are all bad news for this vulnerable mammal. Please remember not to put out a bowl of milk for your local hedgehogs as this can be dangerous for them.

Create a wildlife haven in your garden… by doing nothing!

You will be delighted to hear one of the best things you can do for the wildlife in your garden is to leave an area untouched. A messy corner full of weeds, fallen leaves and dead wood will provide a home for a myriad of creepy-crawlies which will in turn provide an important food source for birds and hedgehogs.

Why not relax in your garden chair and enjoy the last of the warm summer sunshine and the fantastic wildlife visiting your garden…

Colin

Do you have any tips for making the garden more wildlife friendly? Please comment and share them with us.

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