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Wildlife in the Garden

At a glance, your garden may seem docile, populated only with a variety of plant life. Take a closer look and you'll see that your garden, and every garden, is actually teeming with wildlife. You'll find a variety of insects lurking in the grass and hedge, birds gathered in the trees and mammals tucked out of sight, only to be seen by the eagle-eyed. This article will look at the wildlife you can find in your average Scottish garden, and where to find it.

Hedgehogs are spotted by many gardeners, living anywhere from your local forest or parkland, to your very own garden hedge. They may have poor eyesight but their heightened sense of smell and hearing more than compensate for that. Hedgehogs, like many woodland creatures, are omnivores. This means that they will eat insects and snails, as well as berries and roots. For hedgehogs, though, winter means hibernation, so sightings of these spiked creatures will decline until spring rolls back around.

The grey squirrel is another animal which will be going into hibernation for the coming cold. They spend all summer and autumn foraging for nuts and other seeds to store in their nests for the hibernation period. These nests can be found in the hollows of tree trunks or nestled in their branches. The red squirrel was once Scotland's native squirrel but now grey squirrels far outnumber them. In fact, there are so many grey squirrels in the UK that they are now officially classified as a pest.

The badger, Britain's largest carnivore (although it's technically an omnivore) won't be hibernating this year. Badgers live on a diet mostly consisting of worms, although they'll indulge on other small insects during dry weather when worms are unseen. Badgers will spend the day in their underground tunnel systems ââ?¬â?? called Setts ââ?¬â?? and then roam around outside at night. Although their black fur acts as a camouflage in the darkness, keep your eyes peeled and you may be lucky enough to spot one.

Just as common as the badger is the red fox. These flashes of reddish orange are around the size of a small to mid-sized dog. Like the badger, they dwell in underground dens, although many foxes have become urban. Glasgow has a thriving fox population, and has for the past 60 years. They can be seen in alleys, gardens, forests and even in the streets. Foxes are a predatory species and will eat small rodents and birds, among other things.

The mole is a common subterranean mammal, and another omnivore. Moles are rarely seen above ground but evidence of their tunnelling can be seen in many gardens: those mounds of earth which rise seemingly from nowhere.� An interesting fact about the mole is that they have an extra thumb on each hand. This makes their sole concern of tunnelling a much easier one.

Another little creature you might see in the garden is the house mouse, or field mouse. During the spring and summer these animals can be seen scampering around the garden, eating grain, roots and small insects. During the winter these mice seek shelter, sometimes in our homes. Indoors they will chew through almost anything. If your house is commonplace for mice, then you should consider investing in a humane mouse trap (many of which can be purchased easily and cheaply online) as well as proactively blocking up any entrance holes.

Insects are the most common aspect of wildlife you will see in your garden�in the spring, summer and autumn. However, with winter fast approaching, most insects, unable to survive the cold, will have died out or burrowed deep underground. They will not be seen again until spring comes around and the air begins to warm. So that means no more plant eating aphids, or colonising ants. Daddy-long-legs and the Click Beetle (so named because of the defensive clicking noise it makes when attacked) are another two we won't be seeing for a while, along with the lacewing fly. Bees, wasps and hornets are also unable to thrive in this weather.

Slugs and snails will dwindle in population too. This will come as good news to those of us growing anything during the winter ââ?¬â?? slugs are notorious garden pests.

Worms and spiders are able to survive the cold weather, worms because they burrow deep underground and spiders because this is the time of year they tend to invade our homes, although their numbers will drop. Worms will still instinctively move towards the top soil during the rain. Birds rapidly tap their feet on the surface of soil to mimic this noise and attract their food source. Ã?Â

When summer comes back around, we will look more closely at some insects that can be found in your garden, as this is when they are truly rife.

While many birds have flown south for the winter, there are still a number of different varieties to be seen across the skies of Scotland, and dwelling in our gardens.

The robin is a bird we associate closely with winter, and more closely with Christmas, however it is a bird that can be seen all year round. They are best known for their vivid orange chest feathers. They are seen commonly in the garden around this time of year.

A variety of different thrushes can be seen in winter too, including the light blue-brown coloured Fieldfare, the brownish-yellow Song Thrush and the very common Blackbird. Magpies are a bird which we can also see in winter, but also throughout the rest of the year. Sparrows can be spotted all year round, including winter, such as the House Sparrow and the Tree Sparrow, although the latter are less common in Scotland.

Finally, another beautiful bird that can be seen during the winter is the Snow Bunting, a small bird with an underside of white feathers. It can be seen across Scotland, commonly in the East, and leaves when spring arrives.

Above, I have given a brief guide to the types of wildlife you can expect to see in your Scottish garden, especially during winter. When summer rolls back around, we will see many more animals in the garden, especially in terms of bird and insect. In two weeks we will be looking at how you can attract wildlife to your garden and make your garden more animal friendly.Ã?Â

By Dylan Blyth.

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