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Thursday, 23 January 2014

MCV: February Newsletter

Milford Conservation Volunteers - February Newsletter

This summer many children will be coming to Milford to visit their relatives and explore the hidden corners of their hosts’ gardens. Hopefully the youngsters will go away with a lasting impression of hedgehog families in boxes, toads and slow-worms in compost heaps, silver washed fritillary butterflies on buddleia, harmless grass-snakes in ponds, and many more such creatures seen in Milford or Keyhaven gardens in 2013.

Children love to find wildlife in gardens as this is the real life side of their favourite story book animals. Pupils at our own Village School have been learning how to encourage wild-life. ‘Real life’ for many species means they need our food supplements for several months while they are breeding: this could mean a pile of logs with tasty creepy-crawlies, hedgehog food (but not milk please, we’re lactose intolerant), or nectar-rich flowers which you can plant such as rosemary, lavender, hollyhock, delphinium or marjoram. Many nurseries label bee-friendly plants accordingly. Wildlife may also need untidy patches as shelter for nesting and hibernation. 

Sadly, nature’s lunch for a sparrow hawk in a pine tree can be a blue tit flitting in and out of a bird box, and a cherished bumble-bee nest may be dug up by badgers. There’s not a lot gardeners can do to stop natural competition between wildlife, but there is one thing that we can do if we have a cat. Even apparently docile mogs may predate at night, and in day time merely their presence spooks birds, whose breeding success is reduced. Unfortunately cats kill baby hedgehogs, butterflies and frogs as well as birds. 

Many householders give their cats bells which sound a warning: pet shops can recommend types of bells with breaking-strain collars that are completely safe from risk of strangulation if the collar is caught in foliage. In America it is widely regarded as a social responsibility to keep the cat in at night, which is useful especially in spring when undergrowth protects young creatures not alert to bells such as newly fledged robins and house sparrows (the latter are scarce in most parts of Milford). This can also reduce flea and worm infestations in cats. However, night curfews may not be practical for cats used to being out at night. 

Milford can be a wonderful urban nature reserve if we are all willing to make small changes! For more information dig about in the Hants Wildlife Trust website – www.hwt.org.uk

Milford Wildlife Garden Initiative – part of the Milford Conservation Volunteers. 

To find out more about Milford Conservation Volunteers, please visit;

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