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Thinking of adding wildlife benefit to your garden with trees or shrubs?

Most people interested in ecology have heard of Sir Richard Southwood and his 1961 work on British Trees and Shrubs and their associated insects. I remember memorising the list as a student. But not everyone knows his 1961 work was updated, twice, first in '84 to include mites and lichens and again in 2006. The 2006 update is so much more useful. It always frustrated me that the '61 work was merely an indication of diversity without really describing it's benefit overall to other wildlife in real terms, i.e., insectivores and, subsequently to predators that feed on them etc. Take as, my favourite example, the native Field Maple and the introduced Sycamore. The associated insects for the Field Maple is 26 while the Sycamore just 15, almost half. Yet anyone that knows the Sycamore will know it's covered in juicy greenfly and mites etc.. Consequently Sycamores have had a really bad press since they're quite invasive. A quick look at the updated data, however, shows that the Biomass of the Sycamore's foliage invertebrates is given a 5 star rating as opposed to just 1 star for the native Field Maple. Now, I'm sure nobody is suggesting plant loads of Sycamores but it's reassuring to know that they aren't so bad afterall, and when you take into account Mychorizal Fungi, Wood decay fungi, Wood decay inverts, Leaf litter benefit, Blossom for pollen and nectar, Fruits, Seeds and Epiphite community then it comes in an incredible third place after Native Oaks and the Birches. Very impressive indeed for a non-native!

Well, you can take a look at the data and the original text. I have entered it into various tables it can be sorted according to the different, above, criteria.

I have to admit I've not had a chance to have it proof read so forgive me if there's any mistakes, but you can check it yourself against the original text. By the way, I suggest you have a look at the text before making any decisions based on the data anyway. (The text is also linked on the above page.)



    Thanks for presenting this information in an accessible form.It is interesting and not always what you would expect.

    I just looked at the trees I already have, most of them mature trees, inherited when we bought the property high in the Pennines.  Some had been planted less than 10 years. We have sycamore, larch, scots pine, birch and goat willow. They all attract birds, some for shelter some for food. The larches, though fairly low on the list are much frequented by goldfinches, who seem to pick out the seeds from the small cones. We have added ash, holly, cherry, beech, oak, hazel and elder, as well as some ornamental shrubs and conifers.When we first arrived, the house was almost completely surrounded by open upland grazing. The birds we saw were associated with this habitat: lapwing, fieldfare, skylark, wheatear, starling, kestrel, carrion crow, meadow pipit and summer swallows.

    As the original trees have grown, over 30 years, and we have added others, so the bird population has altered. We still see the original birds, though numbers of some have dropped considerably due to environmental pressures elsewhere, but there are now many more. We have resident chaffinch, robin, wren, mistle thrush, great tit, blue tit, blackbird, magpie, pheasant and tawny owl. Greenfinch, pied wagtail, great spotted woodpecker, reedbuntings and heron are seasonal visitors and we have occasionally see others too. Siskins sometimes join the greenfinches, coaltits may come to the birdfeeders. Jack snipe sometimes show up. Buzzard often circle overhead. There have been rare sightings, once only, of brambling, redstart, goldcrest. There is a regular summer sound, of a warbler of some kind that sings in the trees, I have heard and once seen a green woodpecker. Some of these birds may well be around more than we realise; I suspect that the constant movement in the rushes that I see in summer, that fleeting glimpse of brown, may be more goldcrests, but I cannot be sure.

    I know that birds are not the only wildlife,  but they are a very visible indicator  that the insectlife is also thriving, and they depend on soil invertebrates and provide food for birds and mammals. Providing trees where once there were almost none has greatly enriched this small piece of land.

  • sand8sand8 Posts: 23

    Thanks for this Jim, interests me for 2 reasons. I am a mature image hortic student at local agricultural/hortic college so will share with them (with your caveat) and secondly because we are trying to create a sustainable wildlife environment in our gardens.

    We have many butterflies, bees, robin, wren, goldfinch, chaffinch, longtails, tits, siskins, mistle thrush, resident woodpecker, family of now 3 buzzards who nest in trees in our fields we watched mum/dad teaching the young buzzard flight last year, we have a visiting heron as the fields have a natural pond which also brings in the ducks. This week we had a flock of visiting redwing for the day having a stop over, mixing in with the pheasants who have survived the shoot season. Very fortunate to also have bats and a resident owl. We are only learning on how to make the environment friendly to our visitors so info like yours in such a readable format is much appreciated

  • Jim MacdJim Macd Posts: 750

    Buttercupdays that's great, I love the Goldcrests, They're actually one the more common birds, but you wouldn't think so. I see them occasionally at the bottom of the garden in the hedge, most of the time you mistake them for a wren, it's only when you see the yellow as they dart about. 

    Yeah, the larch wasn't the first non-native you'd expect in there but it's got 4 stars for food value and five for Mycorrhiza and on the Total list better than the native Hornbeam, Holy and Yew! I've got a 4 meter high Scots Pine that has plenty of cones for a young tree and as you say the Finches love it. We get Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Siskin, but I also put out Niger and sunflower seeds for them.  You're lucky to have seen the Green Woodpecker, I saw them when I lived in South East Lancs, but no here in County Durham, I've only seen one Jay here.  We've had Redwings and Fieldfares visiting too but not this year, the Guelder Rose is still laden. 

    sand8 So glad I could help. Which college are you going to?

    How great to have Buzzards. Haven't seen those up here yet but I'm sure it's only a matter of time now. We get the Long tail and the Cole Tits. They're like little puff balls on a stick. image The pheasant doesn't come very often to the garden now since I've got two Jack Russells and the pheasants aren't the nimblest of birds to get into the air. Oh that reminds we had Partridge one year. I couldn't believe my eyes. Try to add a meadow if you can with Nightflowering catchfly, the bats spend ages flying up and down our garden at night. I'm not saying they only come in our garden but sometimes I think they know where ours starts and ends. 

    I finally added a pond at the end of last year. I'd decided not to because of the dogs, I thought they'd be in in all the time. Anyway I could hold back any longer so I went for a preformed small one as better than nothing. The dogs have been great, both fallen in once and I've only twice had to tell them off for 'digging' the water so I which I'd done it when we first moved and gone bigger. Oh well. Still I hadn't finished the pond, it was filled and planted, but was still making the bog garden and hadn't edged the pond when dragon flies were already laying eggs. I had to physically move one who was insisting on laying in a 'turf cave' made when I dropped a couple of turves while aiming for the stack. I hated the idea of those eggs not getting a chance to hatch as they were scheduled for being buried. It was great to get a good close look at her though. She was so beautiful. Her wings were like crystal and her body covered in emeralds, totally amazing! You don't appreciate just how wonderful some of these little creatures are from a distance. 

    Well, thank you both of you for your replies. It was wonderful to hear your stories. image Hope I've not made too many typos, not had a chance to check it. image 

  • sand8sand8 Posts: 23

    Thanks for the tip about the Nightflowering catchfly I have put it in my book - if I don't write things down I have trouble recalling image. Anything we can do to help the bats and encourage them to keep colonizing is for the good. So true what you said about sometimes not being able to see the true beauty of creatures. Mother Nature is truly amazing.

    I am at Reaseheath and love it. I study for interest and luckily the college appreciates its mature learners. Anything to keep the brain cells moving. 

    Funnily we have spaniels (one is a retired working dog the other a young dog) and the pheasants just aren't bothered by them, imagenot until one of them flushes them and then they lift. We always know when they are about as the older spaniel still drops into a sit and waits patiently - old habits. They come down to us for safety from the local shoot and seem to stay, which we don't mind. There's only us and the neighbouring farm so once they get down here they settle in, think word is getting around that there is a pheasant sanctuary. Dogs doing water digging is a funny sight but we humans have to get our amusement where we can. Its all part of nature animals and humans working together.

    I agree with you Buttercup in that birds are not the only wildlife but a good measure and luckily our neighbouring farm is a farmer who is trying to tend his hedgerow to bring in as much wildlife as possible.......Countryfile recently did a section on how farmers are helping in this area.

    I will have made lots of typosimage



  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,869

    Looks interesting Jim. I'll have a proper look on the PC later on. Can't see enough on the screen of this little netbook.

    re the night flowering catchfly, is that Silene nutans or another species? 

    I like to look after the bats, they use our roof as a maternity unit and provide us with hours of pleasure in the summer.



  • Jim MacdJim Macd Posts: 750

    Silene noctiflora, nut, you can really smell it when you walk past it at night, it's heavenly. Oenothera is another but I didn't think it needed a mention and not native, but anything that has a more powerful scent at night is great for attracting the moths which will attract the bats. The native grasses attract the moths all by themselves but if you're not into grasses for their intrinsic value then you might not consider them. Personally as long as the wildlife likes I'm happy but I do appreciate the challenge of identifying the different grasses, much easier with a flower spike though. image My favourite for the meadow is Sweet Vernal Grass, it has a scent not so different to a Lavender hedge at night. The roots smell of detol if you dig up a turf.

    Yes, sorry, my site isn't the best for mobiles, I've had a lot of difficulty making it look good both on a desktop and a mobile. The tables are the worst though, so for now I'm afraid I've given up. You change one thing to suite and something else pops out of place. Like my nan trying to get into spanx. image  

    sand8: Reaseheath, ah, that's not too far from where I'm from a nice place to go to college. I'm from the other side of Warrington. 

    Yeah, birds like pollinators aren't the only wildlife either but for most of us in a suburban garden birds and bats are the biggest thing up the food chain you're likely to get in your garden. But by providing homes and food for all out insects, some of them rare and worth conserving in their own right, not to mention the value of conserving our native flora by growing natives you can do so much, after all the insects might start off their life in your garden and fly off to colonise another area, your garden is then like the source of a river, an ecological reservoir, a sanctuary, like you say, and a home, not just a feeding station, a foundation to our valuable food chain. You've got to get the foundations right after all or the system will collapse. image

  • nutcutletnutcutlet PeterboroughPosts: 26,869

    Thanks Jim, I'll have to find S. noctiflora.

    I think maybe I grew bith nutans and noctiflora some years ago nut nutans is the only one that persisted.

    Nicotians affinis is greatly night scented but I don't know if it's of benefit to any species other than us.

  • ButtercupdaysButtercupdays Posts: 4,293

    Must be something about Cheshire! I'm not a million miles from Reaseheath either. Spent several happy days there a number of years ago on day courses arranged through the smallholder society, learning about lambing, cow care, animal first aid and all sorts!

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