Cluny House Gardens wildlifeJune 28th 2022
Cluny House Gardens is well known for its unusual woodland plants and a range of spectacular trees mostly of Himalayan or North American origin. As the garden is organic no chemicals are used which is extremely important in attempting to achieve a natural balance in the garden’s rich and varied wildlife. It is accepted that gardens can be an important haven for wildlife and particularly now that so many species are in serious decline.
Cluny has over the years become recognised as one of the best places to view native red squirrels. For numerous visitors it is the first time they have ever seen a red squirrel or it has been many years since they have spotted one so there is often great excitement!
The population varies depending on the time of year but it peaks in the autumn when there can be at least 15 within the garden. The squirrels are fed on peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds and occasional apples every day at different feeding stations where they can be watched particularly from 9 to 11am and again in the late afternoon. Due to the diversity of plants at Cluny, they also have an extensive range of food to eat including blossom, young tree shoots, fungi, Japanese maple seed, native hazelnuts and beech mast. They breed in early spring and again in summer depending on the amount of food available and the females construct breeding dreys in various tree species. They are active all year but usually have a mid-day snooze in long warm summer days.
Other mammals which have been regularly spotted in the garden include stoats and pine martens. Foxes and badgers are occasional visitors but sadly hedgehogs are a rarity these days. Bats breed in the house but usually disappear in the autumn. Recently bat boxes have been erected to encourage more bats and hopefully they may use them in the winter for hibernation.
Birds are another particular joy especially over the spring months when their songs fill the garden from dawn until dusk. There are no rare species present but a wide selection of woodland birds and over the years 100 species have been recorded within the garden or flying over. In the last few years Nuthatches have arrived and this year 2 pairs successfully nested in boxes. They remain on their territories throughout their year calling noisily and can be seen at the bird feeders along with siskins, finches, tits, great spotted woodpeckers, and jays.
Frogs, toads and newts are abundant and extremely important for controlling slugs and snails. Toads come in very variable colours and are often found hiding in amongst the pots along with the occasional newt although they are generally found in dense vegetation particularly in large clumps of ferns.
Invertebrates are vital in the garden to pollinate plants, break down and decompose organic matter and providing birds and bats in particular with a source of food. Bumblebees, wasps, spiders, centipedes, ladybirds and other beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, shieldbugs, earwigs and ants are all necessary for a varied garden ecosystem.
Both native and introduced plants flourish at Cluny with help from the varied wildlife and without them, gorgeous lilies, primulas and bulbs would not set seed and spread naturally throughout this unique woodland garden.