Competition in the Garden

Nearly 30 years ago, I moved to a smallholding in West Cornwall. It’s on a very exposed hilltop, with almost constant wind from any direction. At that time the land had been used for grazing, and was surrounded mostly by dairy farms. Looking round, I noticed very little wildlife, so I decide to turn my patch into a wildlife “oasis”, to counteract the intensive farming trend.

The open fields were a blank canvas, so I started building windbreaks to grow a suitable habitat, and put out feeders for birds. Fast forward 28 years, I now have a very busy wildlife patch. Each morning, when I go to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, there are 20 or 30 birds waiting for their breakfast. Although this gives me pleasure to see all the birds, I do wonder if this is the right approach.

All wildlife is both predator and prey. And encouraging one species, has an effect on the others. Many birds eat large quantities of insects, this includes caterpillars, bees and butterflies. Both these species are in decline. I have seen a sparrow chasing a dragonfly, a robin trying to catch a lizard and butterflies being taken. So, planting shrubs and flowers to attract bees and butterflies does mean easy pickings for birds. In recent years, lizards and slowworms have disappeared and frogs and toads are less common.

My conclusions are. 1) To create a natural balance, it is best to just provide the right habitat and not feed a particular species. 2) Concentrate on a particular species, according to your circumstances and preference, and not encourage potential predators.

Competition is part of nature, but unfair competition is not.
In my case, if I could wind back the clock, I would probably just create a suitable habitat for a wide variety of life and let nature take it’s course.

John White

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John White

Now retired, but creating an ongoing wildlife garden/ sanctuary on my 6 acre smallholding.

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