Wildlife

 

Amisfield Garden and the surrounding woodland are being managed with the interests of wildlife in mind.  The list of species of wild plants and animals both within the garden and the surrounding area continues to grow with more than 200 species recorded so far and lots more seen but not recorded. 

The garden is full of bird song in the spring.  We have put up nest boxes which attract the usual garden birds, but some are used by Tree Sparrows which also nest in holes in the walls.  Tree Sparrows are included on the 2015 Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern.  Other birds on the Red List that can be seen or heard in the garden or surrounding woodland include the Grey Partridge, Skylark, Starling, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Linnet; Grasshopper Warblers can be heard nearby.  Nuthatches, which have only recently spread to this part of Scotland, are regular visitors to the bird feeders and probably nest in a hollow tree in the woodland.

The garden flowers are planted mainly for our pleasure, but also attract many bees and other pollinating insects.  We include colourful flowers amongst our vegetable beds as ‘companion planting’ to attract insects to the crops like peas and beans that are dependent on insect pollination.  The Tree Bumblebee is a recent addition to our pollinators as it reached Scotland only in 2013 after it was first recorded in the south of England 2001 but has since spread right across England and Wales.

The wildflower meadow was established in 2011 but has rapidly developed a flora and character of its own.  The buttercups and other ‘weeds’ that carpeted the ground in the first few years are slowly giving way to grasses like Yorkshire Fog and long-lived perennials are slowly becoming established.  Of particular interest is the Red Bartsia (Odontites vernus), which is rapidly spreading across the meadow.  This annual plant is parasitic on the roots of grasses and will help to suppress their growth and reduce the competition for other flowers to grow.  Over 70 species of plant have been recorded in this area which is now alive with insects and spiders throughout the summer.  Many of the insects here are parasites or predators on other insects and will make a significant contribution to controlling pests elsewhere in the garden.

The hedge on the south boundary of the wildflower meadow has been planted with most of the common and native trees and shrubs of this area of Scotland.  Once established, it will become a valuable teaching resource as well as the perfect habitat for many plants and animals.

The tussocky grasses in the wildflower meadow are tunnelled through by Short-tailed Field Voles and Wood Mice are also present.  But it is the Pipistrelle Bats that take best advantage of the large numbers of insects on the warm summer evenings both within the garden and in the surrounding woodland where, with luck, you may even see the occasional Roe Deer.

The woodland is being managed by removing the invasive Rhododendron ponticum. Though producing attractive flowers briefly in early summer, this non-native shrub can easily shade out all other woodland plants and its toxic flowers and foliage mean that there are very few insects or birds where Rhododendron dominates.  

Future management will also require the control of Snowberry.  Though less noxious than Rhododendron, Snowberry can also dominate woodland areas and eliminate most other ground flora if left uncontrolled.  Areas where snowberry already forms a dense thicket will be left as cover for birds and other animals, but it will be removed from most other areas of the woodland where it is rapidly gaining a foothold.