Thursday, 23 April 2015

Sparrows with moustaches

In our garden at home we have a pampas grass. They have a bit of a reputation as garden thugs, but in my opinion in the UK this is pretty undeserved. (However, they are invasive species in some parts of the world, have very sharp leaves and can try to take over your garden, so it's probably best to do some research before planting one).  But our pampas grass isn't really a thug at all. Aside from being very pretty, especially when it's frosty, it's an absolute magnet for wildlife.

Over Easter, while all the small birds are nesting, it was unusual to see the pampas grass without at least one bird clinging to it. Sparrows and dunnocks are particularly keen. They pluck the plumes of the flowers for nest lining and nest building, then carry them to their nests, looking like the proud owners of spectacular moustaches.

When you look at pampas grass flowers close up, this really starts to make sense. Not only are they fairly soft and fluffy, I suspect they also make really good insulation to protect the nestlings from extremes of temperature.

A pampas grass plume in all its feathery glory
And pampas grass is not only good for nesting birds- the old stems and dead foliage which dry and build up at the base of the clump also make an excellent shelter for hibernating insects such as ladybirds. We've even had solitary bees nesting in the base before!

Information on ornamental grasses including pampas grass here on the RHS website. If you fancy one for your garden this is a great place to go for information.

Have you seen any birds nesting? Do you have any suggestions for wildlife-friendly gardens? If so, I'd love to hear from you!

Alexandra xx

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