Biodiversity in The Hepworth Wakefield Garden
Our new garden has been designed by Tom Stuart-Smith for year-round interest and that means it will provide a long season of nectar and pollen for pollinating insects. Bumblebees have been busy on our blossom flowers this spring and we’ve seen lots of early butterflies. For National Gardening Week, our Cultural Gardener, Katy Merrington, takes a closer look...
The new garden is proving to be a place where people instinctively share their excitement at the wildlife they have seen around the area. Last summer when the garden was quite a new, a lady waved at me, to beckon me to come down to the other end of the garden nearer the trees, I wasn’t sure what she wanted, but I walked down to join her. She said quietly ‘Listen!’, I listened and there was the sound of birdsong from the pin oaks. She said ‘I’ve walked through this piece of land every week for the past 10 years, on the way to the gym, and I’ve never heard birdsong here before!’
Over the past few months, I have been working with a local ecologist and speaking to other partners such as Woodmeadow Trust to get advice on how we could begin to monitor some of the wildlife in our new garden. We are keen to get a baseline so that in future we would be able to see if the biodiversity is changing. Just before lockdown we had been planning to start monitoring butterflies and birds with our volunteers, who were going to do regular scouts to record what they saw.
Due to the lockdown I’ve had to do this alone and we will pick up on it again with volunteers when the lockdown ends. So I have seen early emerging butterflies, such as Peacocks (Aglais io) and Small Whites (Pieris rapae) and the regular bird count always includes our resident blackbird (Turdus merula), who darts out from under the hedges, clucking and flicking soil onto the path as he feeds. Over the past week he has been seen with a female. So perhaps we have baby blackbirds on the way.
Our local population of Grey Herons (Ardea cinerea) have been keeping an eye on the riverside during lockdown. Now that the roads are much quieter, they swoop lower through the air, like pterodactyls, sometimes catching the occasional passers-by unaware, who look up in amazement. Herons have a distinctive call as they fly up which is a harsh, croaking sound and echoes beautifully throughout The Hepworth Wakefield Garden.
Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) are seen frequently around the garden now, however they are hard to get a good photo of. They are big singers and make different calls when they are perched on a branch, compared to when they are in movement and if you listen carefully you can learn to differentiate these characteristic calls.
It’s been so warm throughout April that we have had lot of Aphids on our tulips, something I monitor by regularly scouting around the garden. Aphids are fascinating creatures as they can give birth to live young at an astounding rate (if you need something to entertain you during lockdown, look up videos of the lifecycle of aphids on the internet, it will amaze you!). However, as long as they are not decimating the plants completely, aphids are part of a healthy ecosystem and are a big source of food for Ladybirds and their larvae. Children who have been on their daily walk with their families through the garden have been enjoying looking at ladybirds on the edges of the flower beds.