Read our newsletter to find out about this month's events and top wildlife tips from Niamh for Halloween!
Wildlife Gardening Evening
Thank you to all who attended the Wildlife Gardening Evening! The feedback we gained has been lovely. We're so glad to hear that people learned many new things and went home with fresh ideas about how to create a more wildlife-friendly garden!
Thank you all so much for coming to support us, including our friends at:
- CESA - Climate Emergency Sunnings & Ascot
- Wild Maidenhead
- Wild Cookham
- Swan Support
- Windsor and Maidenhead Conservation Volunteers
- Volunteers from Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust
- Datchet Village Society
Wild About Datchet are supportive of all creatures big and small, and this Halloween we wanted to shed a light on many injustices! Many of these are seen as traditional Halloween creatures as their appearance and behavior lend themselves perfectly to the eerie atmosphere that Halloween inspires. However, many of these have been permanently demonized, where people are still killing spiders and rats in their homes, due to fear. Here, I hope to shed some light onto why these amazing creatures deserve a second chance.
Spiders are something I prefer to admire from a distance. With around 3,500 named species of spiders worldwide and 650 species within the UK, they're difficult to avoid and can sometimes prove deadly. So why give these tiny intruders a break?
Spiders deliver many benefits to our ecosystems and inside our homes. For example, spiders like to feast on pesky insects, like cockroaches, aphids, moths, and earwigs, which help keep their population in check. This also helps alleviate the spread of diseases and the destruction of farmland crops.
Norman Platnick, an arachnid scientist at the American Museum of Natural History, shared, "If spiders disappeared, we would face famine."
One spider can eat 2,000 insects in one year. This can help stop spread of diseases to us and our pets, by the decline of fleas and mosquitoes.
Maggots are truly interesting creatures. Undoubtedly foul and even I could not be convinced to spend any sort of time around them - but they are absolutely nature's unsung heroes.
For one, they can help solve crimes. Establishing the time of death is a core part of a murder investigation. So therefore, the time of colonization (from the flies landing to laying eggs) helps forensic entomologists accurately assess the time. This is because by noting the various species present and age of the maggot offspring, it's possible to determine the minimum amount of time that's passed since death.
They are also very beneficial for helping hospital patients too. Maggots used in debridement therapy is an FDA-approved treatment, where they feed exclusively on rotting flesh. The dead or infected tissue of a wound is cleared out so the healthy wound can close as they leave healthyflesh alone. Maggots can also help lessen inflammation by suppreessing a part of the body's immune system response.
Often depicted as covered in warts and slimy, the toad has been a popular choice for Halloween demonization. When in fact, they have dry skin and no warts but paratoid glands instead, that produce toxins that protect them from predators.
They are also fantastic (all natural) pest control. They feed on beetles, slugs, crickets, flies, ants and other invertebrates. Larger toad species even eat small rodents and snakes.
The toad's skin is very absorbant to things like pollutants, so if you have toads in your garden, it's a very good sign! This means that you live in an area with clean air.
Also, they are harmless to the human, as long as it isn't ingested - make sure your pets know this too! So why not create a home for them? You can do this by placing your new toad home in a shady spot near a water source. Maybe half-bury a large flowerpot on its side or tip a flowerpot upside down and prop one side up with a few rocks to create an entrance. Even easier, you could gather flat rocks and build a toad-sized house with them.
So this Halloween, it doesn't matter if you're not dressed as a witch, befriending a toad is beneficial for everyone.
Luckily, it seems bats have survived the negative press given by centuries of vampire legends, and are still loved by the general public. But if not, why should we?
Well, some bats in the UK are known as an 'indicator species'. This means that if the bat populations fluxuate then it indicates changes in certain biodiversity aspects and can highlight bigger issues.
Surprisingly, they are also incredible pollinators. Over 500 plant species are known to rely on bats to pollinate their flowers. So, the next time you eat a mango or drink some tequila, you can thank the bats!
They also pay a very important part in seed dispersion and regrowth after forest clearance. This is done by spreading the seeds of trees and other plants. Some tropical fruit bats carry seeds inside them as they digest the fruit, then excrete the seeds far away from the original tree - thus promoting regrowth.
Whatever would we do without our bats?
One of the nations most hated pests, I truly believe deserves a second chance. Many people turn to traps or poison, which can cause severe secondary poisoning for owls, kites and kestrels when they consume prey that has ingested the bait. This damage to the ecosystem can be prevented in a few ways, such as, by adequately covering compost bins and by not over-stocking bird feeders as this brings the rats to you.
Unlike the UK, many civilisations like rats. In India, at Rajastan's famous Karni Mata Temple, around 20,000 rats can be found. Many Hindus travel great distances to pay their respects to the kabbas (holy animals) that guard the shrine. This is because they believe them to be reincarnations of the deity's tribespeople. In China, the rat is one of the 12 members of the animal zodiac. People born in the year of the rat are said to have qualities of creativity, honesty, generosity and ambition.
They also serve a huge part in our ecosystem, as they are scavengers and opportunistic eaters. They will eat garbage and all the other food waste thrown away. Without rats, our food chain would be severely damaged - losing a food source for a lot of our favourite birds and even some snakes.
Rats are also incredibly smart. They can smell stereoscopically, which means that in a darkened room they can tell whether food is on the left or right of their nose within 50 thousandths of a second.
A neuroscientist has even uncovered evidence that rats "laugh". When happy, they emit a series of ultrasonic chirps, similar to children. Their ability to feel happiness is also proved by their way of purring when content while being held. And many owners will agree, that they make fantastic pets - domesticated rats, that is.
Now the Halloween fun is over, why not reuse those pumpkins to help the wildlife? You can do this by creating your own bird feeder to help them in these colder times. To do this:
1. Cut the pumpkin in half.
2. Scoop out the seeds, leaving a hollow inside with 1/2-inch thick shell wall.
3. Insert two sticks across the open pumpkin to create perches for the birds.
4. Knot two lengths of rope together at the center and tack the knot to the bottom of the pumpkin feeder. Hang the other ends of the rope in your chosen feeder location.
5. Fill with birdseed.
If you've constructed your log pile a while in advance, please thoroughly check it before lighting. This is a popular habitat for hedgehogs and other wildlife, who may be sleeping iside. Ideally, you should be constructing your bonfire on the day of the event and providing barriers around it to prevent any hedgehogs entering. Instead, consider building a hedgehog home that they can stay in this winter, that won't be a part of the bonfire festivities.
This autumn, consider leaving your leaves! Raking leaves away can be very detrimental to your gardens ecosystem. This is because butterflies begin in leaves, as larvae.
Those brown, dead leaves are the planet’s butterfly nursery. They’re home to butterfly larvae and worms. Additionally, leaf litter is where many species of butterflies and moths reside as pupae. Animals like toads, shrews and salamanders benefit from leaf litter to hide and hunt, too. This autumn, let your rake collect dust only!