Five creatures to spot from your yard

From sunrise to sunset, look and listen out for these creatures in your little garden or yard...

You don't need a big garden, a lawn, beds or borders for your outside space to be wildlife friendly! From creative containers to creeping plants, there are loads of ways to attract wild friends to your yard or small garden. 

Here's what to look out for during the Great Yorkshire Creature Count, and some tips for helping to attract more wild friends!

House Martin (c) Dawn Monrose

House Martin (c) Dawn Monrose

Darting and dazzling house martins...

It's a joy to see house martins nesting in the eaves of buildings and homes! Their intricate mud nests take days to build and they can return to them for years to come, so leave their nests in place when they migrate in the autumn.

House martins are in rapid decline (now on the Amber List), so anything we can do to help them is a good thing. Because their nests are made almost entirely from mud, you may be able to entice them to build near you by creating a muddy pool or puddle in a corner of your yard.

They feed on flying insects and aphids, so planting window boxes and pots on the sills and ground below the eaves of your house (where they make their nests) may also attract them. 

Garden bumblebee (c) Penny Frith

Buzzing bees...

If you want to encourage bees to visit then plant wildflowers in planters and pots! Bees and wildflowers evolved together and native plants provide an excellent source of pollen and nectar. Bees are most attracted to blue, purple and yellow flowers, and daisies, zinnias, asters and Queen Anne's lace will entice a variety of bees. 

Garden bumblebees have the longest tongue of all the bumblebees, so they will also be attracted to plants in the mint family (like oregano, mint and lavender), as well as those with hidden nectar spurs like columbine and snapdragons.

Bees need habitat, so tidy yards with lots of concrete are not good for them. They nest underground, often using the old nests of small mammals.

Whatever you do, avoid using pesticides - even organic ones can be toxic to bees and other pollinators. 

Common pipistrelle bat (c) Tom Marshall

Common pipistrelle bat - Tom Marshall

Hungry bats...

Bats are marvellous little mammals and a joy to behold on warm, dusky nights! Do you know that a common pipistrelle bat can eat up to 3,000 midges in a single evening? 

There are two things that you can do to attract bats to your yard: put up a bat box and plant night-scented flowers. Bat boxes are fairly easy to incorporate around your home – they need to be placed somewhere sheltered, about 4/5 metres off the ground; so the side of your house or a high wall or fence are good options. Flowers like jasmine, evening primrose and honeysuckle all attract night-time insects which, in turn, will entice bats.

And if you have the space, you can create a wild corner of your yard to help bats further - a compost heap, some rotting logs, or hedging will all be of benefit to them. 

Seven spot ladybird (c) Vaughn Matthews

Seven spot ladybird (c) Vaughn Matthews

Bright and colourful...

One of our most common ladybirds, 7-spot ladybirds are very familiar with the red and black markings. They are the gardener’s friend, as they eat aphids and other garden pests - attracting them to your yard will keep you and your plants happy! 

They eat pollen as well as insects, so growing flowers and herbs like scented geraniums, cosmos, fennel and dill will also entice them in. Make it homely for them by buying or constructing a bug house or hotel. Place it somewhere with both sun and some shade to attract a beautiful mix of residents! 

Do you know that nettles are good for ladybirds? They attract nettle aphids earlier in the year than other aphids, thereby attracting the ladybirds. And ladybirds will even lay their eggs on the leaves.  

Blackbird - AdelDam

Blackbird - credit Chris Hardy

Listen for the blackbird's melody....

With a song to brighten the dullest of days, blackbirds are a much-loved visitor to our outside spaces. A wide range of foods will attract them to your yard and there are plenty of options, including uncooked oats, mealworms, fat balls and even dog food (instead of mealworms). 

Blackbirds (as well as other birds like collared doves, thrushes, dunnocks and robins) will not use feeders, so putting food on the ground or making space for a bird table is the way to go. Water is often forgotten, but it is as important as food for most garden birds - not just for drinking but for cleaning as well. Installing a bird bath, as well as a food source, will make our beautiful blackbirds very happy and ensure they return again and again.