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A closer look at the log pile

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 27 Nov 2009 at 01:00 PM

As you make your way to the new compost heaps at the garden, you pass a big pile of logs next to a hedge. There are several log piles nearby, but this particular pile is the one I go to, because it’s so convenient, whilst the next one along is surrounded by tall nettles. The pile attracts, amongst other things, woodlice, spiders, small flies and beetles. At the base, mice, frogs and toads dig themselves burrows to shelter in.

The log pile

At certain times of the day, when the sun catches that corner, I might be lucky and surprise a grass snake sunning itself. They aren’t easy to see, because they hide very quickly once they know you’re there and you have to creep up on them as quietly as you can.

Last week I climbed through the fence to get a better look at the logs and could see that much work was being done and many lives were being lived in those logs. Wood had been chewed into sawdust, maybe by larvae of the lesser stag beetles that we’ve spotted nearby, and many holes had been bored. Spiders scurried about the surface of the logs, disappearing into gaps and crevices and the leaf litter at the base of the pile was crawling with woodlice, millipedes and beetles.


Lesser stag beetle


One log had sprouted a cluster of delicate looking mushrooms, possibly the curiously named Mica ink-cap (Coprinus micaceus), which will provide several meals for the slugs and snails. 


Mushrooms growing on a log


As I peered at the logs, I heard a subdued and sweetly wistful song nearby and looked up to see a robin on nearby branch, its bright eyes staring intently. Robins are a constant companion to gardeners and will follow them about like a watchful supervisor, always ready to flit down to pick up any worms or insects that emerge as the soil is turned. This one was probably hoping that I’d move some of the logs so it could get at the grubs and worms beneath, but it was out of luck there and would have to come to the garden with me and sing for its supper there instead. I’ll dig and the robin can tell me its stories. 


sue1002 said:

That's interesting as I didn't know that slugs and snails ate mushrooms, I thought they just went for the greenery of our prized flowers and veggies.  Still, the frogs and toads know where to hide out to feast on them :-)

on 27 Nov 2009 at 02:21 PM

Roundelder said:

Nice writing Miranda, painted a nice picture with thoughtful use of the English language. OMG I sound like a teacher marking an essay, I do apologise if it reads like that.

on 27 Nov 2009 at 02:41 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

I think slugs and snails will eat just about anything, Sue, but our prized plants are obviously the daintiest treat.

No, it doesn't read like that, Roundelder. Shan't start calling you 'Sir' just yet ;-)

on 27 Nov 2009 at 05:17 PM

richardpeeej said:

'I think slugs and snails will eat just about anything'- that sounds a bit like me Miranda as I can't think of anything that I don't like to eat (except maybe the logs!)-interesting article.

'Moranda smiles two much in class and think that comming to schoole is one big laugf'-headmaster

on 27 Nov 2009 at 08:02 PM

BB said:

It's amazing how many creatures there are in a pile of logs. Very valuable wildlife refuge.

on 28 Nov 2009 at 10:46 AM

miranda said:

You know, Richard, I actually had a report a bit like that once!

on 28 Nov 2009 at 11:21 AM

Digger said:

Those are big logs Miranda, I made a log pile for beetles but i'm too far north for stag beetles, will black ground beetles eat the slugs?

on 03 Dec 2009 at 07:56 AM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Shame you don't get stag beetles, Digger, but your other ground beetles will still help to keep the pests down. They will eat slugs, as well as a wide range of caterpillars, grubs and insects. We'll make an organic gardener out of you, one of these days!

on 03 Dec 2009 at 10:51 AM