February 2014 – The Hibernarium

CATERPILLAR TO GO

Tiny, sleeping caterpillar curled up in the logs.

I don’t know, you leave a few logs under your windowsill and residents start to move in.   We have a new wood burning fire and so we stacked some of the logs under the window to keep dry.  They had only been there a week or two but as I went to move them into the house I found a small, green caterpillar tucked up between two of the logs and a long-legged spider splayed out against another.  I moved them both into the over-winter shelter to stay warm alongside the sleeping geraniums.

spider to go

Long legged spider seeks refuge.

Over the Christmas break we cleared out some rubbish from the house and just piled it all up in the back garden.  It sat out there in the rain for a few weeks before we got a chance to move it out to the dump.  I was surprised to find that a couple of snails had curled up between the folds of the rubbish.  They weren’t there before, so they must have woken from their winter resting place, wandered round aimlessly, then settled into this newly provided habitat.  As I put the snails inside the over-winter shelter and covered them with a large stone, I started thinking.  If the creatures were on the move then perhaps it would be worth making my hibernarium, as there is nothing I like better than to interfere with nature just to make my futile existence seem worthwhile. 

crate

Empty crate for the Hibernarium.

I had seen this idea on the web.  Someone produced stones of interesting shapes with an array of holes, so you could put them together to make a mini-beast habitat for your garden.  They were very expensive and I decided I could do the same job using what nature had provided; though I did have to buy a wooden crate to get me started.

Into the crate I put some logs on the ground floor as I knew these were popular hiding places.  Then above that I placed some upturned flowerpots with just the hole side poking out in an inviting fashion.  I filled in the gaps with stones, wood cuttings and cut cane, for the little guys to crawl into.  On the top I put the old chimney cowl which had been removed when the new wood burner was fitted.  This cowl seemed like a perfect mini-beast hotel with entrances facing all sides.  I can lift the lid at the top to take a peek inside, which is even better.  So any wandering beastie who wakes from their winter sleep should be able to settle down here for the duration and possibly longer.

hibernarium

Completed Hibernarium.

This winter in England it has been mild and wet.  Wet, wet, wet.  I can’t begin to tell you how much rain we have had.  The rivers have flooded and once green fields have turned into ponds, complete with ducks.  It has been raining solidly since Christmas but now at the tail end of February it has finally stopped.  You realise just how much you have missed the sun when a rare glimpse of that golden orb peeks through the clouds.

It has been so mild this winter that I saw a fly in January and today I roused all the hibernating geraniums from their over-winter shelter.  They were dry as a bone behind their plastic cover and desperately needed some air and water.  They are sitting now on the garden table and look as though they are ready to burst forth with new red blooms.  I have never brought these guys out so early before.  Usually it is towards the end of March before I even think about unzipping their frost resistant cover.  Seems unlikely we will get frost or snow now, but more rain is forecast.  Of course.

2014-02-24 15.26.17

Bee friendly plants start to flower.

The bee friendly plants I put out in hanging baskets and pots last summer have also faired well and decided to flower at the first sight of sunshine.  The daffodils are up, perky and bright and the miracle of spring is in the air.  Thank goodness.  Living with all that rain was like being in a Swedish crime drama.

Spy cam has been sadly disappointing; lots of pictures of starlings and pigeons and nothing else.  I can only guess that this is because the small birds are still not coming to my garden, despite all my efforts to provide for them.   The food in the caged feeder had become stale and mouldy from neglect.  I replaced it with niger seed, but so far, no takers.  I have been trying to attract the small birds for over a year, so they have all had time to check things out.  In fact they do check things out.  Blue tits and great tits visit the garden, but none of them stay.  Robins come fairly regularly for the fat ball or the meal worm.  I even saw one hang onto the tube feeder eating the seeds.  Don’t suppose spy cam caught that though, he always seems to be looking the wrong way.

To be fair, the garden hasn’t been my priority lately, but with spring in the air and baby beaks to fill I will source some new seed for the small bird feeders and try again.  Anyone got any suggestions? Oh and by the way, it’s raining again.

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4 Responses to February 2014 – The Hibernarium

  1. We haven’t had your rain, but we have had quite a bit of snow and lots of freakishly cold weather. I added rock piles as micro-habitats last year but like your idea of mini-beast hotels better. It sounds more fun and less scientific. I cut two tall skinny trees down in Dec and saved the logs for a brush pile. I’m curious as to who will move in. Love that you have plants ready to bloom. Even our bulbs are waiting for warmer weather!

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    • Della Law says:

      Not easy to see if I have any takers yet for the minibeast hotel. I won’t be able to tell until I clear their rooms out I guess. It has stopped raining today but more is forecast. Hope the critters are tucked up warm and dry.

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  2. Love the box idea and it will be interesting to see what you find after a few days. I hope the spy cam picks up something cool in the warmer days Della. Trying to capture the small blue birds on my camera is almost impossible, they are so fast. Hoping spring has come and the rain eases off. you really have had a tough winter with the rain and floods. Here’s to your spring and my autumn.

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  3. Della Law says:

    It is so wet here and it is gloomy getting up to rain every day. The sun is shining now so hopefully spring is on the way. I love to see the baby birds out in the garden. Hopefully spy cam will get a few shots of them. We are waiting for the guy to come and fix our leaky kitchen roof. He says he needs a dry day, don’t we all.

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