“Are not five sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God” Luke 12:6
Spring is a time to shake off the winter blues and get outdoors! Its a time when wildlife around Scotland is waking up and looking for fresh food and a place to call home and this makes it a great time for practical creation care, attracting God’s creatures into your gardens and church yards. We encourage you to take action at home and in your church to not only care for all of God’s creatures, but to enjoy them as well.
1: Build and install a bird box
Spring is a wonderful time for bird watching and its even better if you can attract a breeding pair. If you haven’t got shrubs, bushes and hedgerows already, consider building and installing a bird box. Many of the UK’s most common bird species are in decline as suitable habitat for feeding and breeding is paved over to make way for urbanisation. Putting a bird box or two up can really help them out and you get the joy of watching the chicks grow.
There is no need to over complicate it – you can get started right away by building your own or purchasing an RSPB certified one from a local garden centre.
2: Install a Bird Feeder
Another great way of attracting birds to your garden is by putting in a feeder. Put out a combination of nuts, seeds, and fat-balls using different types of feeders to draw in variety. Different species have their favourites so include a range that means lots of birds can feed at once. Wood pigeons for example will feed off seeds on the ground which means the sparrows can have the hanging feeders to themselves.
Be strategic on where you put your feeder to keep the birds safe. Put them in the open so the birds can keep watch for predators, but also near trees or bushes to provide refuge.
Don’t forget to keep the food fresh and topped up and be patient.
Birds won’t always notice food for several weeks but once they do and find it a consistently safe place to feed, they’ll keep coming back! You can read tips on feeding British birds here.
3: The Humble Bumble – Build a bee hotel
Unlike honey bees that live in hives, solitary bees like to have their own room in a bee hotel. These bees are an essential part of pollination and maintaining healthy ecosystems so attracting them to your garden or churchyard is a great way to give them their space. From tucking them under window ledges to stacking old pallets, you can build hotels in all shapes and sizes to suit space and species.
BugLife have a wide selection of tips and resources, not least straight forward instructions on How to Build a Bug Hotel.
4: Have you considered Gardening for Bats?
Many people encounter bats as a nuisance when they find them making roosts in roof tops, belfries and church yards. This is because of the strict laws afforded to them in the wake of a severe decline in bat populations across the UK. Like a lot of British wildlife, Bats increasingly gravitate to urban areas as their natural habitat in the wild is destroyed. This is what makes it so important care for them as part of God’s creation and to encourage them into your local area by building a bat box to roost in.
If you’ve seen a bat in your garden or churchyard, why not get a bat detector and get a group together to listen to them and identify what species you’ve attracted? The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) also have bat groups who can help you out and provide advice. The BCT will be leading a workshop at our Annual Gathering on April 23rd 2016. Come along to find out more!
5: A wild patch
Is nature always messing up your garden? Thats because it simply doesn’t do tidy! From weeds in the flower beds to lichens on a tombstone, nature is always looking for a way to re-wild our work. One of the simplest ways of caring for creation is to let it do the work for you. This doesn’t mean doing nothing but it might mean leaving that pile of rocks or letting the ivy grow by selectively letting a patch go wild. This can be as simple as leaving a pile of logs or leaves in an unruly corner or letting the grass grow by experimenting with an out-of-sight location. RSPB Scotland advocate giving the mower a rest and letting insects and birds roam the grass!
You could even throw some wildflower seed down to grow attractive flowers in the patch you want to let slide.
6: Wildflower meadow
Wild patches are a great place to start but you can always give them a head start by sowing wildflower meadow. Wildflower meadows come in all shapes and sizes and are not only beautiful, but also great for giving birds and bees a place to feed and nest. Once sown, meadows will come back in flower every year and need very little management. Some wild flower species (yellow rattle) will even predate on grass, effectively doing the job for you! Be sure to get wild-flowers appropriate for Scotland then gather an eco-group or youth team and get sowing!
Compost is great because it provides food for some creatures, habitat for others and eventually, rich soil from which more life can grow. It might not be as exciting as birds and bats, but good soil is habitat to many little creatures!
Don’t be afraid to throw your kitchen compostables into a compost bin and get your hands stirring it around. This is not only a sustainable, peat-free way of growing fruits and vegetables, but also a superb way to enrich poor soil by inviting worms and other wrigglers to work the soil for you. It also comes without packaging or flyer-miles!
8: Make a hedge!
Native bushes such as hawthorn, blackthorn, field maple or hazel are far better for wildlife than exotic shrubs or featureless fences. Spring is a great time to plant deciduous hedge species which will provide an invaluably complex ecosystem of wildlife all year round. Why not consider replacing some old fence panels with such a bird-friendly border? If you’ve got some room to play with, consider interlacing some dwarfing fruit trees to provide foraging treats for yourself as well. This is a great activity for small groups and eco-teams to get together and plant hope for the future.
9: Caterpillar Catering!
Who doesn’t like to see a butterfly fluttering through the garden? But from hybrids and genetically modified seeds, butterfly populations in the UK are in decline. You can encourage butterflies into your garden by growing plants caterpillars like to eat. Butterflies will seek out particular plants to lay their eggs, so you can selectively place these to draw them in. Watching caterpillars and butterflies is a great activity to engage children in nature and it gets better if you’re a gardener! Consider planting sacrificial vegetables within a butterfly border to lure butterflies away from your crops.
10: Think outside the Box
In order to really attract wildlife to your garden or church yards, you must consider creation as a whole. Wildlife doesn’t respect our boundaries any more than the weather so think about your work as part of a network. Every effort you make will have a knock on effect on the wildlife around and about. Encourage your friends, family and neighbours to join you in making room for nature and you’ll begin to see more wildlife in your area. Trying to think outside the box! If you haven’t got a garden, maybe someone in your congregation needs help tending theirs? Consider helping the grounds keeper manager your churches’ property or getting a group together to transform derelict land into a community meadow. What a way to share God’s hope for the world by bringing dead land back to life?
This material was researched and produced by Paul Williams at Eco-Congregation Scotland.