Urban Biodiversity

Although we mainly refer to our patch out the back as a herb garden, it often feels more like a nature reserve, even though it’s on the edge of Cork city centre. The garden attracts a surprising variety of wildlife, including foxes, red squirrels, hedgehogs, some wild rabbits a few years back, frogs, lots of bees, bats, a variety of butterflies, all manner of unusual insects and a host of different bird species including, in the last twelve months, a buzzard, peregrine falcon, a snipe, sparrowhawks, herons, a marsh harrier with a small bird in its tallons as it skimmed the hedge-tops, along with all the usual tits, finches and other more regular garden birds. No wonder we seem to spend half our time thumbing through bird books to make an ID. We find it quite a thrill, especially being literally only five minutes walk away from the South Mall.

The plethora of bird life is no doubt down to us putting out lots of food and fresh water, and with the way nature works, once you have loads of smaller birds, the more unusual birds of prey regularly drop by for lunch. Mind you, the raptors often don’t get lucky as we’ve structured the feeding zone to give reasonable aerial shelter, with good escape cover very close by. I do love the sociable, lively sparrow community – hate to see them get picked off.

We attribute the diversity of animal life, on the other hand, as being largely a result of having a wide variety of natural plants, many of which attract their own specific insect species, and as there is just about no chemical use in the garden, nothing gets poisoned by eating here, so there’s a good insect biomass to kickstart the food chain. I say ‘natural plants’ because they are nearly all edible or medicinal naturally occurring species, which means their evolutionary traits have not been bred out of them, so they retain their natural characteristics of scent, fruits and berries, fertile flowers with pollen, natural resistance to insect damage etc, and so are nicely wildlife friendly. Low maintenance too.

They do say that the urban environment has huge potential to enhance and preserve biodiversity, and I guess what we see in the Evergreen Clinic’s city centre garden illustrates the point. Gardens of any size can make an important contribution to biodiversity – even an appropriately planted window box makes a cheerful stopover for a passing bee or butterfly. One of the keys though, is giving up the chemicals. Did you know that the highest levels of pollution in many a suburban home are to be found in the carpets, from garden chemicals being brought in on the soles of shoes? Now that’s one that easily slips under the radar, unless of course you’re an insect or insect eater.

This year we’re going to make a good effort at documenting what goes on in our mini (a little over an eighth of an acre) city centre nature reserve, so check back for regular pics and updates. My outback cam is going to be tied up with the Rheum palmatum (Chinese rhubarb) project – more later – so I’ll have to get another for the bird feeding area. The one I got last year was just €70-ish  from Maplins and not bad at all for that money. We had great fun with the camera, even though at that price there are bound to be limitations, like the four megapixel definition, and unfortunately the infra-red signature of small birds is too slight to trip the shutter, but we should be able to get the buzzard or any other larger birds, if they drop by again.

The raptors can be quite brazen, fearless almost, hanging about long enough for me to nip back indoors and get a camera, and not readily taking fright by the movement or attention. The sparrowhawk, for instance, spent about ten frustrated minutes poking about on top of the privet early one Friday evening last September, driven nuts by the dozens of sparrows hiding right under his feet in the thick of the hedge, laughing their heads off at him while I stood no more than twenty feet off, snapping away and getting some video. Here’s one pic – I’ll be posting more later, along with regular updates on garden action through 2015.   




One Response to “Urban Biodiversity”
  1. Nano Murnane says:

    Dear Kevin so enjoyed reading about your Natural Habitat there. I have a question please. I have a good friend who’s 14yr old son has developed Anorexia and has lost a lot of weight. Have you been able to help with this disorder and in one so young?
    If so please let me know what their path to recovery involved and I will pass on the information. I may also pay you a visit as I have been reducing prescription medication and want to treat ailments Naturally.

    Many Thanks


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