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Zanna's Nature Notes: Squirrels and Garden Antics

Discover the amazing natural world around you with Usborne author Zanna Davidson. This week we meet some cheeky characters in the garden.

Birds everywhere are still busy feeding their fledgelings. In our garden, we’ve hung up feeders with seeds and nuts and their favourite of all…fat balls.

Blue tit mother and baby

A blue tit mother and baby perch on the feeder, the mother dropping tiny pieces of fat ball into her babys open beak.

Jackdaw in a tree

Jackdaws come over from the fir tree in next door’s garden, and investigate what’s going on, to see if we’re worth visiting.  

You can tell a jackdaw from a crow by its pale grey neck and the white ring around its eyes.

Blackbirds dash in and out…

Blackbird

Even the great spotted woodpecker, who is usually quite shy, has come to the table.

Woodpecker

You can see its huge claws, specially adapted for clinging onto tree bark.

The magpies think they’re the most important. They strut around on the ground, swaggering, as if they’re saying “Look at me! I’m the King of the Garden."

Magpie

Greedy magpie

They’re greedy too. Here’s one with three nuts in its beak!

But my favourite of all, even though the food is not meant for them, are the squirrels.

They will do anything to get at the bird food. Female squirrels could be extra hungry because they have babies to feed. They give birth in March or April, but if there’s enough food around, they may mate again and have another littler in June or July.

This squirrel is very pleased with itself, having found a nut on the ground.

Hungry squirrel

This one is attempting to jump from the garden fork onto the feeder.

Squirrel on fork

Stuck squirrel

Unfortunately, it got stuck inside the bird feeder.

We had to prise open the metal bars before it could escape.

But what happens in the garden when we’re not watching? Is anyone visiting who we don’t know about? To find out, we set up a wildlife camera. The first visitor was not promising… 

Another squirrel!

Squirrel

And then, one evening, look who came! A fox cub – all ears and inquisitive dark eyes. The highlight of my nature week!

Fox

Write your own nature diary 

  • You could start a nature diary of who’s coming to your garden or street.
  • Try doing it for a day, or even a week. Write down any birds, insects, mammals or any other animals you see.
  • To encourage birds to come, set up a bird table or hang a feeder. It will also help, if you have a garden, to allow a small patch to go wild, with long grass and weeds.
  • Once you find out where the animals come, sit very still and try to take a photograph for your nature diary.

Photos by Arthur Davidson-Kelly and Peter Bradley.

About Zanna Davidson

Zanna Davidson

My name is Zanna Davidson and I write children’s books for Usborne, including the Billy and the Mini Monsters series. When I’m not writing, my favourite thing is to go outside and be in nature. Sometimes that means birdwatching, sometimes that means looking at wild flowers and other times it just means sitting under a tree and not thinking about anything at all. 

I’m very lucky to live in the Surrey Hills, an area that is protected because it’s full of amazing nature - from smooth snakes and natterjack toads to rare birds and butterflies. 

But to find nature, you don’t need to live in the countryside. It’s everywhere! In a back garden or a front yard, in parks or creeping up through pavement cracks, and in the skies above you. Look down! Look up! Stop a while and peer closer, and closer still, and nature will come to you.

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