Every garden has its daily wildlife – insects, birds or mammals that you tend to see on a regular, though seasonal, basis, and then the occasional more unusual visitor will pop up from time to time. For me the thrill is always a new bird or butterfly, especially if it something that I have hardly ever seen well before. A couple of weeks ago a female hawfinch appeared here, quietly feeding under a nyjer seed feeder close to the house. The goldfinches have abandoned this area temporarily but there were still plenty of spilled seeds on the bare ground beneath. So together with a couple of female chaffinches, my new visitor hopped nonchalantly about on the ground and the driveway of the house, picking up seeds, before flying off to another part of the garden. Luckily my camera was at hand and I was able to get a few reasonable shots through the kitchen window. This is a bird I have only ever seen in the tops of trees, so my garden ‘tick’ was even more exciting for that reason. A visit to the Forest of Dean some years ago produced that tree-top glimpse but an up-close and personal view was wonderful.
Jenny Steel was a Plant Ecologist at Oxford University before becoming a writer. She has more than 20 years experience of writing about and teaching ecology, natural history and wildlife gardening. She is also a photographer, journalist and former plant nursery owner, and a lecturer and tutor in adult education. She has appeared on a variety of radio and television programmes including Gardener’s World with Alan Titchmarsh, and she presented a series of items on the BBC 2 gardening show, How Does Your Garden Grow. She has worked with and written for a variety of organisations including the Royal Horticultural Society, Natural England, Atropos, Ernest Charles, the Adult Residential Colleges Association (ARCA), Haiths, Usborne Books, Complete Gardens, Oxfordshire County Council, the charity Growing Native and several of the Wildlife Trusts. She is also the Garden Bird Guru for the wild bird food company JustAddBirds of which she was a co-founder. The Emmy Award winning film company Panache Productions are currently making a film about her wildlife garden in South Shropshire. She has written 10 books on wildlife gardening. Her website can be found at www.wildlife-gardening.co.uk and her bird food company at www.JustAddBirds.co.uk