In February 2011, just over a year ago, I said that there weren’t any sparrows (Passer domesticus) coming to the garden, but that there were plenty of them in gardens on the other side of the green. I wondered if we didn’t have enough plants to attract them and vowed to plant more. I did plant more, lots more, but as luck would have it, nearby neighbours were changing their planting and I acquired several rose plants which are currently sitting in temporary containers in the courtyard before going to new homes. Some of them had aphids on the flower buds and it was during a period of dithering about whether to spray, squish or wait for the ladybirds to turn up and sort it out that the sparrows came to the rescue. Looking out of the window, I noticed movement amongst the stems and foliage of the roses and, to my delight, realised that a male and a female sparrow were carefully picking off all the aphids from the flower buds and leaves. Good birds!
I’ve been thinking about what has changed, because this year we do have sparrows – not in big numbers, granted, but we see them and hear their cheeps and chirps almost every day. They often gather in the top of a large Cotoneaster glacialis, which has been allowed to increase in size with the idea of it providing nectar, fruit and shelter, and cling to the slender upright stems, from where they can see into this garden and also into next door’s. They have discovered the food and water under the Magnolia and also spend time rummaging about the plants in the borders, which are now starting to fill out with a range of shrubs and herbaceous perennials.
The north-facing border, just starting to fill out in May
Indeed, as plants have been added, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in birds and insects in the garden. The flowers bring in the insects and the insects bring in the birds. A pair of song thrushes and a pair of mistle thrushes, on the lawn, all at the same time! Blackbirds, sparrows, robins, gold finches, dunnocks, bluetits, greattits, coaltits, green finches, chaffinches, doves, pigeons, jackdaws, not to mention the great spotted woodpeckers who nested in the old cherry tree this spring – they’re all finding the garden and coming back for more. To look out on all that life feels so delightful it’s hard to describe it, so I must borrow a quote from E.M. Forster and say that ‘At the side of the everlasting why, is a yes, and a yes, and a yes!’.
The south-facing border, just getting started in May.