Photos in the garden and biodiversity
In France, the cumulative area of the gardens represents more than one million hectares, the same area as our natural reserves !!! These often very (too) artificial spaces can become, for those who wish, islands of nature, which will attract a varied fauna. What's better for a wildlife photographer than a hot spot at home! It is on the basis of this observation and my experience that I offer you here a few tips to improve the natirel side of your garden !
General rules to dedicate a garden to wildlife
To attract a variety of wildlife in your garden, it need to provide food, shelter and a place to live
The more you will have type of environnement, the more you will have a wide variety of animals (Lawn, fallow, vegetable garden, orchard, pond, hedge ...)
Choose your plantations, not only for their aesthetics, but also for what they can bring to the wildlife ie food and shelter.
Plan for your future hide, well oriented for light, then organize perches or a water point for birds at a good distance and look after the background vegetation to have beautiful blurry backgrounds.
Your garden should be as natural as possible, avoid chemicals (fungicide, herbicide, chemical fertilizers) if necessary take the products of organic farming. Attention most plants sold in the garden center are treated with neonicotinoids, the insecticide is already in the plant (sap, flower, nectar) and it remains there! After the death of the plant it goes in the ground !!!
Choosing local plants adapted to your soil and your climate, they will resist diseases better, which will avoid you to use phytosanitary.
By planting your garden think that you plant the decoration of your future photos, scenery must be natural.
The lawn and its variants
Almost all gardens have a lawn that nowadays meets aesthetic criteria that make it look like a green carpet uniform of 1 inch thick. However the lawn can be completely natural, just let it grow the local vegetation and mow from time to time. Understand that every mowing costs you time and money, pollutes, makes noise, grinds many animals (insects, batrachians, hedgehogs) and cuts flowers that are a source of food (nectar and seeds ) for insects and birds. A natural lawn will offer you beautiful scenery to photograph blackbird, thrush, green woodpecker that will come to look for earthworms, ants and slugs. It is possible to create zones of "lawn" of different heights to diversify the plants that will settle. Areas where you will often pass will be shorter and more frequently mowed, this will be the place of small grasses, violets, daisies and plantain. The less frequented "lawn" areas of the garden can be mowed once or twice a year, the grass will be higher 20/30 cm (clovers, daisies). Finally, we can create a fallow-type space with even higher plants, which we will mow only to avoid the growth of shrubs. In fallow it is interesting to have plants with hollow stems that are nesting sites for many insects (Carderes, Heracles, Wild Chervil) and plants with seeds like the sunflowers that will make the feast of the passerines.
- Mowing without picking up cut grass helps avoid fertilizer
- Mow according to flowering to allow time for plants to reproduce and foraging insects
The Vegetable Garden
It is oriented towards food production, it is less interesting for shooting.
It is here that ingenuity is needed to make the production of the kitchen garden coexist with a varied fauna. It is necessary to be very careful to the plant protection products, it and preferable to use those that are organic The garden can also produce plants that will cure your vegetables (Nettle, Horses ...)
The hoe, the mulching can replace the weed killer. Some vegetable associations protect each other and others compete. Part of the garden's wildlife can help you protect the vegetable garden, it's up to us to make its useful hosts thrive!
It is interesting to make a compost that will improve the fertility of the vegetable garden without resorting to chemical fertilizers. The compost will also allow the installation of a fauna specialized in the decomposition of plants.
Beware of plastic nets protecting crops, they prove to be deadly traps for birds.
The hedge closes very effectively its garden, it is an effective windbreak and offers a good protection to the birds that install their nests there. Here also choose local essences adapted to your soil. The hedge is the berry shrubs will provide feed for the birds. When the hedge is trimmed, I leave the branches cut to the ground, forming with the dead leaves a thick mattress that allows the hedgehogs to hibernate.
This mattress maintains moisture at the foot of the hedge and its decomposition, nourishes it. This mattress is also home to many collembola, interesting subjects for macrophotography. Never cut a hedge during nesting. Think of incorporating some shrubs that remain green all year round, they will make a protective cover for the birds in winter (Common juniper if ....)
As an example for a chalky limestone soil the shrubs of my hedge are: Common hazel (Corylus axellana), black elder (Sambucus nigra), milky cotoneéater (Cotoneaster lacteus), Sorbier des oiseurs (Sorbus aucuparia (Viburnum lantana), the field maple (Acer campestris), the charm (Carpinus betulus), the male dogwood (Cornus mas), the common Juniperus (Juniperus communis), but there are many others.
Like the vegetable garden it is dedicated to the production of fruits and the use of products of organic treatments is strongly recommended. The soil may be left fallow and mowed only once a year before the fruit is harvested. The unharvested fruit feed the birds or feed the compost.
In the tallest trees nest boxes can be placed for birds.
Having a permanent water point in a garden is always good for wildlife. It will be particularly attractive during periods of extreme heat or cold (maintain access to open water). In addition to its role as a drinking trough it attracts other species of interest for photography (dragonflies, batrachians, ...)
For the realization there are preformed basins made of plastic or the rubber tarpaulin very practical because it allows all sizes, shapes, depths of basin, it adapts to the hole that you dig. To feed my pond with water I buried a pipe that goes from the gutter of the roof of the house to the pond.
No matter the size of the water point, from the saucer to the large pond, it will be useful! It is appropriate in all cases that there is a gently sloping, shallow access beach, allowing birds to bathe and animals falling in to get out easily.
There you can also plan your pond (orientation, decor, beach gently sloping) to make photographic shoots. If it is big enough, you can plant irises of water, rushes, water lilies, potamots (Be carefull with Typha latifolia it have rhizomes that pierce basin tarps and especially avoid invasive plants that are sold in gardening and Which creates real ecological disasters by proliferating in nature (jussie, water hyacinth, elodée)
Make a pile of wood by leaving interstices there, it will shelter many insects and may be that a hedgehog will make its shelter of hibernation. Make a heap of stones on a sunny place so that the lizards can sunbathe and hide. Not to mention some artificial nest boxes to help the reproduction of small passerines. There are many models whose shape is to adapt to the birds present or those that we want to attract
It is only in winter that it is wise to feed the birds in his garden. Even in mild winters, it is helpful to help them because their natural food resources are scarce and their energy needs high.
As a rule, start feeding progressively in mid November at first frosts. When we started we must not stop, the birds gathered at home, they would find it difficult to find food elsewhere than in the manger. For the stop it is necessary to wait especially the end of the frosts and the return of a more "warm" time generally the middle of March. They must be provided with adequate food (sunflower, "bird of the sky" mixture, grease balls) and a water dish in a period of continuous freezing (night + day). Care must also be taken to disinfect the feeding trough from time to time as bird assemblages also promote the transmission of disease.
One can take advantage of the arrival of all these visitors gone to make a photographic hide near the feeder.
The animals in your garden will not fail to attract unnatural predators, dogs but especially cats that are only very rarely controlled by their master. In France, the number of birds killed by cats is estimated at 25 million a year !!! Cats also kill orvets, frogs and squirrels! If you have a cat that you do not master, equip it with a bell. Particular care should be taken when placing the feeder, it must be placed high up in a clear place where the birds can see the cat coming from afar. When installing a nest box, the access hole must be as far away from any other support that a predator could use to capture birds when they exit. The water point must also be in an open area, without a possible hiding place for the cats, the birds are particularly vulnerable when they bathe, their wet plumage does not allow to take off quickly.