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Home to Roost

Tempting them in

Food!

Not just birds?

Predators - a problem

Ponds and water

Visitors

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Plants in my garden

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The kiss of the sun for pardon
The song of the birds for mirth
One is nearer God‘s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.
Drat that cat! And curl that skwerl!
Nature doesn't want to leave in peace and harmony, that's for sure. Even two different flocks of our Goldfinches squabble and fight, when there is space and food available for all.

Grey Skwerl (or squirrel if you're posh)So it shouldn't come as any surprise that our domesticated lion of the garden, the cat, does his best to catch anything that moves.

And the poor, hungry grey squirrel doesn't know that those peanuts in the bird feeder aren't for her, does she? She just views it as a bit of a challenge to bite through a layer of plastic to get at those juicy nuts inside.

Even the heron flying overhead just sees your pond as another source of food. Do you really think that he considers the cost of those fabulous Koi carp that he is trying to make lunch out of?
The Daleks have no place in your garden
If you are a true nature-lover, and want the best for the visitors in your garden, then whilst it might be understandable and normal to want to discourage animals that you consider a nuisance, it doesn't mean that you want to exterminate them.

So what's the best way to deter some visitors in your garden?

Grey Squirrels (Sciurus caroliniensis): you can either give the skwerls what they want (food) in the hope that they will then leave the much harder-to-get-at bird food alone, or use a spray (called Squirrel Stop) which you spray onto your plants and trees that the squirrels are gnawing. The skwerls find it repulsive and hence leave of their own accord.

Of course they can damage far more than your bird feeders: they will gnaw trees, plants and bulbs and once they have "got a taste" for a species they like then you really do have a problem.

Frankly, we find squirrels delightful, and if they damage the occasional bird feeder, then it serves us right for not giving them some easy-to-get-at food, or to buy squirrel-proof bird feeders in the first place!

I recommend the corn-on-the-cob style food: its somesort of maize fashioned into a corn-on-the-cob shape with a hole through the middle. You just screw the supplied long bolt into a tree or fence post and hang the cob on it.

In addition, buy a squirrel nut feeder. This looks like a regular wooden bird feeder with a plastic transparent front and a hinged lid. The squirrels sit on the front platform and take nuts from inside by lifting the lid. Very cute. But you will get through a lot of nuts, because they don't just eat them, they take them away by the mouthful to bury elsewhere!

Red squirrel, slowly disappearing from Britains countrysideRed Squirrels: anybody lucky enough to have red squirrels visit them should proclaim it loud from the rooftops. You will soon have a long queue of people desperate to get a view. These are most definitely not pests, but are native to the British Isles, but are unfortunately being slowly but surely replaced by the larger grey squirrel that was introduced from North America. Man's interference has come back to haunt him again, it would seem.

Cats: Pepper dust, lemon pellets, chilli powder have all been tried and have mostly failed. They might work in the short term, but come the first rain shower and it's all washed away. What I have found to work is an ultrasonic repeller.

Ultrasonic Cat ScarerThese are activated by movement and emit a very high, cat unfriendly noise that really is discouraging to cats. We humans can't hear it, although other animals can but are apparently not bothered by it at all. We have two, and it's constantly being set off by larger birds such as pigeons but it doesn't affect any of our birds at all. We only see the cat walking on the top of the fence along the edge of our garden though since we installed them, he doesn't visit any more (that we know of).

It's important to get the type that is activated by movement so it is not constantly on, as otherwise they can become used to it and eventually ignore it. They are not cheap, however, and we only bought ours as a last resort (after tubs of pepper, lemons and chilli had no effect).

Foxes, Badgers : I would not consider these a pest even if they did turn my dustbin upside down. If I had one visit I'd be delighted. And buy a heavier dustbin.

Adult SparrowhawkSparrowhawks (and other birds of prey, known as Raptors): they do take occasional birds but that is their very nature. We had a hawk visit just once (we think it was a Goshawk because it seemed far too large for a Sparrowhawk). It stayed 10 minutes after it had caused absolute pandemonium in our garden with the other birds (it did not take any). And it has never been back, but we live in hope...

Herons: if you have a pond then you are a target for a heron. It will make short work of any ornamental fish unless there is somewhere they can hide (eg a paving slab over a couple of bricks). You can put unsighly netting over your pond, or string fishing wire at various points over it, which herons apparently dislike. Or buy a decoy heron in the hope it will deter others (instead of encouraging others, which seems more likely to me!).
Is it not man's attempt to totally dominate the planet - and nature - in the past that has brought so many problems to today's natural world?

Nature will always find a way round obstacles - so make it difficult for unwanted visitors to ravage your haven, but don't make it your life's work if you actually want to enjoy your garden!