Skip navigation.

  • A window opens to a garden full of birds

    Miranda Hodgson on 27 Feb 2010 at 04:59 PM

    We have been offered the use of the walled garden outside our kitchen window. This is in addition to the large courtyard we already use and the garden, on a nearby farm, where we grow vegetables.


  • Woodpeckers find a louder drum

    Miranda Hodgson on 19 Feb 2010 at 04:09 PM

    Up at the garden this week, we heard the sound of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker hammering its beak against a tree. They do this to announce their presence in the area and can batter against a tree trunk up to 40 times a second, which makes you wonder why they don’t get headaches. If we did that, our brains would swirl around inside our skulls and we would soon be unconscious and, even if we weren’t unconscious, then we’d probably be very uncomfortable and no doubt quite cross as well. Fortunately, nature has provided woodpeckers with an efficient shock absorbing system, which means that their brains are able to absorb the blows, avoiding concussion, so allowing them to hammer away as much as they want to.

    There are plenty of trees around the garden for the woodpeckers to hammer against, but some woodpeckers have discovered that they can make a louder drumming by using telegraph poles instead of trees. I first discovered this several years ago, when I was wakened at first light by the sound of the bedroom radiator vibrating. This happened on several mornings during the next couple of weeks and, initially, I was mystified at what could be causing it.

  • Amazing woodlice

    Miranda Hodgson on 13 Feb 2010 at 05:19 PM

    What better way to recuperate after minor surgery than a spot of light gardening and wildlife watching. Fresh air, sunshine and gentle exercise certainly take your mind off things; you end up feeling incredibly virtuous and may even pick up new knowledge along the way. So it was that, after a day’s garden pottering, I discovered on returning home that, according to the Natural History Museum, the UK has some 37 species of woodlouse. In all, there are over 3,000 species and some of them even live in the sea. Bet you didn’t know that.

    Anyway, it was after helping someone to remove a clump of pampas grass (actually, all I did was cut back the foliage) that I looked down into the hole left after rolling the root ball out of the way and saw an especially large and fine looking woodlouse. It was one of the biggest I’d ever seen and, unlike many other woodlice I’ve come across, this one had a pale fringe around its shell and spots of the same colour along the length of its body. It was beautiful, a tiny living work of art.

    The ground here was damp and shady – not a good place for a pampas grass and the plant wasn’t thriving; in fact, half of it was rotting and quite smelly, so it wasn’t surprising that woodlice had set up house there.

    They breathe through gills, so a soggy, rotting plant would be ideal. I thought back to other woodlice I’ve seen and dug out a picture taken a few years before of a smaller, brown one that I’d seen in a compost bin, which had appeared to be in discussion with a slug. They were quite different.