It is now a couple of months since the miniHide was first installed in the community wildlife area at Castle Hill allotments so I thought it would be useful to write a follow up – namely Castle Hill Allotments Part II. If you would like to read my first report you can see it here Castle Hill Allotments Part I. I’m really pleased with what has already been achieved and am looking forward to the future. Following discussions with the Committee, and Ipswich Council, we now have permission to use the miniHide for the next three years. I’m sure it will be a welcome addition to the field.
Having designed the hide as a sectional building it was a simple matter to dismantle it where it stood in my garden and re-erect it on its new site within the community wildlife area at Castle Hill allotments. The fun part then began developing various features to encourage wildlife into the area.
Thanks to the power of Doris I had some spare fencing that could be used to help separate the area and reduce disturbance as visitors approached the miniHide. Further building up of the dead hedge also helped in this regards. Finally a living hawthorn hedge was planted along the boundary to provide more habitat and separation.
Hedgehogs and Opening Day – 8th April 2017
The Opening Day was selected as the official opening of the miniHide and it was lovely to see so many plot holders present.
I also took the opportunity to show everyone the plastic hedgehog tunnels and how they could be used to detect the presence of hedgehogs. Several plot holders were interested enough to borrow a tunnel to see if they had hedgehogs in their own gardens. It was nice to see that a number of hedgehogs were confirmed. If anyone is interested in borrowing a tunnel please let me know. Also if there is enough interest we hope to hold a hedgehog training day later in the summer.
Leading up to our Opening Day, scheduled for 8th April, I decided to carry out a brief survey of the hedgehog population on the allotment. I borrowed 3 plastic footprint tunnels from the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and placed them in three separate areas of the field.
- In front of the miniHide
- At the top edge of my own plot,74A, alongside the railway fence.
- On the new conservation area behind the ancient hedge.
I baited the tunnels with a commercial hedgehog food and recorded any footprints left over the next three days.
I found that a hedgehog(s) was recorded for 2 of the 3 days on the miniHide site and on Plot 74A. No prints were left on the tunnel on the other side of the track in the conservation area. However hedgehogs travel quite far distances and I’m sure that they will travel all along the boundaries of the field.
One of the best features to attract wildlife to a garden is a pond. It seemed obvious to install one in front of the miniHide. Using some recycled wood and a bit of effort we soon had a new pond. The frogs had spawned successfully in one of the other ponds a few days earlier so it was an easy task to transfer some of the newly hatched tadpoles to the new pond. Various native plants were added to help the pond become established. A shallow water beach was also included. It wasn’t long before several birds started to use the beach on a regular basis. It is hoped that newts will find their own way to the pond.
A second well tried method to attract wildlife is to erect some nesting boxes. These can be simply made from old bits of scrap timber and help to provide a safe place for many birds to bring up their young. Blue and great tits are usually the most common residents but a whole range of birds may well take advantage of a nest box. I’m pleased to say that the box that Walter Sedgwick made out of an old tree branch was successfully used by a pair of blue tits to bring up a family in full view of the miniHide. They have now fledged and left the nest box. Many of you will be aware that Walter has also made quite a few other nest boxes that have been erected around the field.
Jean has kindly left a note book in the miniHide for anyone to record their observations. These can be as short as you like and help to let everyone know what is happening. Please record any wildlife seen on the field and not just what is in front of the miniHide. I will transfer your sightings to a chart – again posted inside the hide.
I have also started a gallery of the wildlife sightings on the field. If you have any photos you’d like to share please e-mail them to me and I shall add them to the gallery.