The RSPB has collected top ten signs of spring that you may see from your garden:
3 Migrants returning – spring sees the return of migrant birds to the UK. In your garden you may be able to admire swooping swifts, marvel at sand martins balancing on telephone wires or hear the nightingales chirping call.
4 Bats waking up – you may start to see bats coming out to feast on insects in your garden – a single pipistrelle bat can eat 3,000 gnats in one night!
5 Bluebells – if you have any bluebells, now is the best time of year to see them burst into bloom, transforming the ground into a sea of blue.
6 Dragonflies return - the common darter dragonfly will start to come out. These regular visitors to gardens perch on vegetation, walls, fences, garden canes and washing lines as they wait to catch their prey, which, for a common darter dragonfly, is pretty much anything they can catch.
7 Frogspawn in ponds/toadlets emerging - If you have a pond in your garden, you may start to see tiny toadlets emerging. They love juicy insect larvae, spiders, slugs and worms, so you can create a toad haven by making your garden as insect-friendly as possible. Leave your leaves to dissolve in the ground rather than raking them up, planting wildflowers, or building a bug hotel!
8 Blossoms – if you’ve got crab apple or cherry trees in your garden they’ll be starting to burst into bloom. Bees love crab apple’s pink blossoms, while the cherry tree blossom holds both the male and reproductive parts in the same flower.
9 Grass snakes waking up - Grass snakes start to wake up from hibernation around now to look for a mate, so you might see one in your garden or park. The females lay eggs in places such as compost heaps where the rotting vegetation can keep the eggs nice and warm, so be sure to check any piles in your garden before moving them.
10 Dawn chorus for early risers on light mornings – from around March to July birds are looking to defend their territories and attract a mate, which means an early start! The first birds start singing about an hour before sunrise, with skylarks, song thrushes, robins and blackbirds starting off the choir. The early part of the day is perfect for birds, dark enough that predators can’t see them and the still air can carry song about 20 times as far. There’s always the RSPB bird radio if you can’t get enough and want to listen to birdsong throughout the day.
Staff at an animal sanctuary have had to install security cameras in a bid to discover how a diminutive donkey kept escaping from her paddock. Bemused grooms at international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary were left dumbfounded after nine year old miniature donkey Tally managed to escape from her paddock on an almost daily basis to munch on lush grass nearby. Although staff stepped up daily patrols to see if they could spot Tally in the act, the equine escapologist always evaded being caught.
Tally’s paddock, shared with 10 other miniature donkeys, was divided by an electric fence, but every morning Tally would be found on the other side of the fence munching on the long grass.
After weeks of head-scratching, the team at the Devon-based charity decided to take drastic action and installed close circuit television. It wasn't long before the herd’s Houdini was caught red-hooved. Footage revealed Tally simply ducking under and lifting the wire over her back, seemingly unaffected by the mild shock from the fence.
The team found that Tally was coming to no harm during her escapades and as the paddock she was escaping into was secure, they decided to turn a blind-eye to her adventures. The Donkey Sanctuary’s Maxine Carter explained: “In all my years looking after donkeys I’ve never come across any animal so good at escaping as Tally. We tried everything to try and stop her getting out of her paddock but she out-thought us every time. She’s making a real name for herself. If she were human, you’d probably be saying ‘lock her up’ because she’s been into every sweet shop going, gorging on all the goodies!
We’ve thought up different ways to try to stop her having free-rein to the longer grass, but she’s found the knack and at the end of the day, that’s where she wants to be and that’s where she’s happy, so we just need to keep an eye on her.”
Miniature donkeys originate from Sardinia and Sicily. They are a separate donkey breed in their own right, generally no higher than 91 cm.
Tally, along with her miniature donkey friends can be visited at the The Donkey Sanctuary’s Sidmouth site in Devon and people can also keep an eye on her antics by logging on to the live webcam.
Bonfire Night, a seasonal tradition. At this time of year, watching a stunning spectacle in the sky is an event to look forward to. For dogs though, fireworks can be a terrifying experience. Research shows that 45% of dogs show signs of fear when they hear loud noises. While it is heartwarming to share special moments with our pets, it’s important that they enjoy it too. The experts at Canagan, grain-free pet food specialists, offer their tips on keeping your dog calm during this time.
Preparing your dog for fireworks season
De-sensitise them to loud noises in advance: Start playing firework sounds quietly while you’re with them at home, offering occasional treats. Gradually increase the volume. Eventually your dog will feel safe and will think of fun, happy moments when they hear real fireworks
Engage in plenty of activity during the day: Exercise with your dog during the day – whether a long walk, playing frisbee or fetch – so when the fireworks start, they’re almost too sleepy to notice
Let them out early: For most of the year it’s against the law to set fireworks off after 11 pm. However, this curfew is extended to midnight on Guy Fawkes Night. To ensure your pet enjoys a full night’s sleep, ensure they have gone to the toilet and eaten before bed. Introduce this earlier regime in the days leading up to your local display so they adjust
Keep them indoors: To prevent your dog from feeling distressed, get lost or injured, settle them down at home, in familiar surroundings
Create a ‘safe space’ in your home: Whether it’s their bed with blankets and soft toys, or on the sofa, create a comforting space where they can retreat and relax
Let them decide where to settle: While your designated ‘safe space’ may look appealing, your pet may prefer snuggling next to you. If you confine your pet to one place, they may grow distressed or hurt themselves trying to flee should they be spooked by your local display
Draw the curtains: Firework flashes can scare dogs, so shut out the light to create a relaxing environment
Escape-proof your home: Close all doors and windows and secure any garden escape routes. If you have people coming and going from the house, emphasise that external doors must be opened and shut swiftly to avoid your furry friend getting out
A collar and micro-chip are essential: If your dog does get out, a collar with your details and an up-to-date micro-chip will ensure they can be traced back to you
How to keep your dog calm during a display
Mask the sound: Playing the TV or radio – classical music for example is proven to calm dogs – will reduce the impact of loud noises
A long-lasting chew toy: Stuffing a chew toy with food will keep their attention and offer a delicious end to the evening
Act natural: Animals are perceptive and sense if you’re behaving unusually. This may unsettle them so give reassurance by inviting play
If they join you outside, use a leash: If you prefer your dog to accompany you during a fireworks display, keep them close on a lead. Your presence will reassure them, while you’ll have peace of mind knowing they won’t run away. Never, ever tie a fearful dog up outdoors and leave them alone.
Avoid leaving them alone at home: Arrange a sitter to look after your dog if you have plans to go out. If you return and your frightened pet has made a mess, don’t be annoyed. This will only cause your pet confusion and distress.
If fireworks are causing your dog high levels of anxiety seek advice from a behaviourist. De-sensitising your pet to loud noises and flashes takes time and keeping them comfortable is key to protecting their wellbeing, as well as maintaining calm behaviour.
The project will run in the Tsavo Conservation Area, one of the country’s most visited tourism destinations, home to approximately 12,850 African elephants. Among this population are at least 11 of the world’s 30 or so remaining ‘big tuskers’ , so-called because their tusks are long enough to reach the ground. They all face a mortal threat from poaching fuelled by demand for ivory. Through IFAW’s innovative wildlife security initiative ‘tenBoma’, both government and community rangers are trained to anticipate and respond to threats to animals and local communities.
TenBoma, meaning ten houses, is inspired by an African community philosophy that professes if ten houses look out for each other, the wider community is safe. This philosophy is at the heart of IFAW’s work which aims to create a co-ordinated wildlife security network, trained and equipped to stay one step ahead of the organised poachers that have impacted elephant populations in Africa.
Technology, systematic data processing systems and intelligence collection are the key to the initiative. Local communities keep a vigilant eye on suspicious activity – from detecting unknown tyre prints to seeing camp fire smoke from outside a village area. This data is then catalogued and forensically analyised and any emerging patterns shared with field rangers who can put plans in place to counter potential threats. Rangers are provided with communications and mobility equipment including GPS, smartphones, radios and satellite equipment which enable them to respond more effectively and rapidly to intercept poachers.
In partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service and Tsavo Trust, the initiative provides training and mentoring to 130 Kenya Wildlife Service and community rangers.
Thomas Ellerbeck, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of TUI Care Foundation, commented, “An exciting aspect of this project lies in its combination of local knowledge on the one hand and the latest technological developments on the other. Together with various local stakeholders we are helping to build a strong basis for a sustainable social-ecological environment. Empowering the local community and building sense of ownership is crucial for long-lasting change.
Faye Cuevas, Senior Vice President at IFAW said, “TUI Care Foundation has made it possible for us to provide urgently needed equipment to community rangers such as mobile devices, cameras and boots so they can collect information on potential threats to wildlife and people. State-of-the-art crime scene investigation training supported by TUI Care Foundation means that rangers can now better protect Tsavo’s ‘big tuskers’ from unique threats like poison arrow poaching through more efficient collection and preservation of forensic evidence at a poaching crime scene.”
As part of its TUI Elephant Aid programme, TUI Care Foundation has been actively supporting projects for the protection of elephant populations worldwide since its foundation. In Tanzania, local farmers were taught how to protect their crops with elephant friendly solutions and foster a virtuous coexistence with these ancient creatures. In Thailand, TUI Care Foundation currently supports local entrepreneurs to develop elephant friendly venues where visitors can experience elephants in their natural habitat.
About TUI Care Foundation
Building on the potential of tourism as a force for good, the TUI Care Foundation supports and initiates partnerships and projects which create new opportunities for the young generation and contribute to thriving communities all over the world. Connecting holidaymakers to good causes, the TUI Care Foundation fosters education and training initiatives to open up new opportunities and perspectives for young people, the protection of the natural environment in holiday destinations and sustainable livelihoods in thriving destinations where local communities can benefit even more from tourism. TUI Care Foundation works global and acts local - building on strong partnerships with local and international organisations to create meaningful, long lasting impact. The charitable foundation values transparency and the efficient use of funds. 100% of donations go to destination programmes with all administration costs of the foundation covered by TUI.
Founded in 1969 the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is a global non-profit organisation that protects animals and the places they call home. With offices in 15 countries and projects in over 40, IFAW rescue, rehabilitate and release animals into secure landscapes around the world. In collaboration with governments and local communities, experienced campaigners, legal and political experts and internationally acclaimed scientists pioneer lasting solutions to some of the most pressing animal welfare and wildlife conservation issues of our time.
The Donkey Sanctuary’s 50 years’ legacy building continues. Its award-winning RHS Chelsea Flower Show garden has been rebuilt at the charity’s international headquarters in Devon. The garden is open to the public and like the Sanctuary, is free of charge for visitors.
The Donkeys Matter Artisan Garden scooped the coveted People’s Choice Award and a silver medal at the prestigious show in May. The garden was designed to showcase The Donkey Sanctuary's international work and celebrates 50 years of transforming the lives of donkeys and mules.
above: Chelsea Garden, Devon above: working donkeys in Ethiopia
The Donkey Sanctuary with the generous support of a long term donor, felt a Chelsea garden was in keeping with its long term vision of animal welfare, conservation and sustainability. The international charity is committed to building a legacy of donkey excellence in a sustainable green space for future generations. Using water as its central theme, the artisan garden creates a narrative to illustrate the donkey's journey from a wooden shelter through hot, dry landscapes to its place of work in agriculture or water collection, for example, to support the livelihoods of entire communities.
The garden demonstrates by way of a well and dripping bucket how owning a donkey means access to clean, fresh water for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. In places like Namibia, Lamu, Somaliland and Ethiopia, donkeys have to collect water for entire villages. A donkey will often collect 40 – 60 litres of water at one time. The simple act of a donkey carrying water reduces time required to access it, freeing children to get an education and women to be economically active.
The planting of the 'Donkeys Matter' garden suggests the dry Mediterranean climate, including Mediterranean Sea Holly, Iris ‘Langport Wren’ and Lavender ‘Hidcote’. The colour palette is claret, purple and silver with bright flowers lending beauty and colour to the garden’s harsh surroundings. The trees are Pine ‘Glauca’ and Cypress.
This summer visitors to The Donkey Sanctuary can buy similar plants to those featured in the garden and can also learn about conservation projects across the charity’s farms as well as its supported charities worldwide.
The Chelsea garden is testament to North Devon designers Annie Prebensen and Christina Williams and made possible by a generous supporter who wanted to help raise The Donkey Sanctuary’s profile and take its message to a wider audience
Images copyright The Donkey Sanctuary.
Vets at the world’s largest donkey hospital have come up with a novel idea to help one of their donkeys cope with the bright sunshine as he recovers from temporarily losing his sight
Jonty’s special ‘bug-eyed’ mask certainly makes him stand out from the crowd at The Donkey Sanctuary’s international headquarters in Devon. The unusual eyewear helps block UV rays. Problems started for Jonty when he stood on a thorn which painfully embedded itself into his hoof. Following a simple procedure at the state-of-the-art donkey hospital the thorn was removed, but things got worse for Jonty.
Vicky Grove, a Veterinary Surgeon at The Donkey Sanctuary says, “The stress of the injury possibly triggered the recurrence of a chronic eye problem. Jonty suffered an immune-mediated inflammation of his whole eye and lost his sight.”
The veterinary team needed to protect their patient from strong sunlight, and the special mask – which gives Jonty his bug-eyed appearance – was just the ticket to block UV rays.
Vicky adds, “The mask is just like wearing sunglasses and Jonty has made some good progress, though the back of his eye is still damaged. We are monitoring his eyes with an ophthalmoscope and have tested his eyesight with an obstacle course, which he has completed so we think he is now just partially-sighted.”
Jonty will wear his mask for much of the summer and the sanctuary’s vets will monitor his progress. Let's all keep our fingers crossed that Jonty's sight keeps improving!
Jonty is currently convalescing at one of The Donkey Sanctuary’s farms, which is not open to the public. It is hoped that following respite he will be brought back to the charity’s main sanctuary in Sidmouth, which is open to members of the public. There he will join a small group including another partially-sighted male donkey called Will.
The Donkey Sanctuary recently took in a pair of rescue donkeys, Stuart and Bob. Their hooves were grossly overgrown. When post-surgery complications led to the difficult decision to put Bob to sleep, Stuart needed help to start his life afresh.
Above: Stuart at the clinic before his hooves were trimmed Above: Stuart with trimmed hooves
The Sanctuary's welfare team are always on hand to support donkeys in need, so when the RSPCA contacted them about two donkeys they had seized on veterinary advice, the Sanctuary responded right away to help plan the best course of action. Along with Bob, Stuart’s feet had become so overgrown that his toes were curling up – rendering even a the shortest of walks a painful ordeal.
Head of Welfare, Hannah Bryer, visited the pair at the equine clinic in Staffordshire where they had been taken for treatment. “I could see right away that both donkeys needed corrective care on their hooves from an expert farrier,” said Hannah. “Their overgrown and misshapen feet were causing them pain and affected their ability to stand or walk normally.”
Above: Bob in hospital Above: Stuart and Bob in trailer
Both donkeys underwent routine assessments, treatment and, for Bob, a castration procedure that every stallion receives when coming into the Sanctuary's care. The journey of this donkey duo took a heartbreaking turn when Bob suffered post-operation complications and – despite extensive veterinary treatment – the difficult decision was taken to put him to sleep.
Donkeys form close bonds, and the impact of such a sudden loss can in turn be a life threatening event for the donkey that loses its companion. The team knew that it was vital that Stuart got all the support he needed, and for him to be relocated to another group of donkeys as soon as possible.
Chris Pile, farm manager at the Derbyshire centre, was there to transport the bereft Stuart to his new home. “It’s quite a stressful thing for a donkey to lose their mate,” he said. “We did keep a close eye on him, particularly in the first three weeks when there’s a higher risk of hyperlipaemia – a potentially fatal disease often brought on by stress – but he took it all in his stride and seems to have bounced back very well.” On arrival, Stuart spent some time in an isolated area before joining a group of playful boys where thankfully, he settled in straight away.
Although Stuart now looks like a different donkey, Chris says that such extensive neglect to his hooves will take time to overcome. “When we first met Stuart it was of course the feet that came to our attention – that was our main concern. He had adapted to that way of walking and our worry was that if we corrected lots of the hoof straight away that it might cause some pain. So, we have been correcting the shape of the hoof a little bit at a time to allow him to get used to his new feet.”
In spite of all he’s been through, Stuart is taking strides in the right direction and is undergoing training with a renewed spring in his step. Hopes are high that someday he will find a new friend to fill Bob’s shoes and maybe even join the Donkey Sanctuary's Rehoming Scheme.
As we approach summer, the weather is growing warmer. We can take steps to make ourselves comfortable in hot weather, but our animal friends often have to depend on us to help them. Below are some helpful tips, thanks to the RSPCA.
Nibbling on grass is natural for cats. Research has not yet shown why domestic cats are attracted to it, but it could be linked to the fact that wild cats will often eat grass after they have devoured their prey, helping them expel the indigestible parts. Another theory is that cats eat grass for some trace minerals and vitamins A and D. Whatever the reason, cats seem to love it!
At Mayhew, they grow cat grass in pots and place them in the enclosures of the adult cats and vaccinated kittens for them to munch on, which they do with gusto! Another firm favourite with many of the home's feline residents is catnip, which is also grown at Mayhew for them to enjoy. If you’ve ever seen a cat around catnip then you’ll know that they can go totally crazy for it, becoming more playful, loving and confident. The sedative effects of catnip can also really help to calm down a stressed kitty, reducing anxiety and depression.
“When cats first come to us, they can be nervous about their new surroundings, but once we offer them catnip leaves or pouches filled with Valerian (another good stress-relieving plant) even the most withdrawn cat will investigate!” Kayleigh Kilcommons Head of Cattery
Ones to watch out for
As pets look forward to exploring the flora and fauna this summer, remember that some plants should be steered well clear of. Foxgloves, daffodils (especially the bulbs), cherry laurel, rhododendrons, wisteria and chrysanthemums can be toxic if eaten. Lilies, although very beautiful, are particularly toxic to cats and can cause severe kidney damage. If you think your dog or cat has ingested a toxic plant, it is essential that you seek veterinary advice immediately.
Read here to find out which plants and herbs are best for dogs
Find out more about the MAYHEW here
The medicinal benefits of herbs and plants for humans are well known; however, you may be surprised to hear that plants can help our canine and feline friends too, from soothing skin conditions to aiding anxiety sufferers. Many of the animals at Mayhew have endured tough times before coming through the doors. Providing access to safe plants in a secure environment can offer them comfort and reduce stress levels as they are prepared for their new forever homes.
Sensory enjoyment for Mayhew's dogs
Mayhew has developed a sensory garden for the dogs in their care. This outdoor run acts as a safe haven, made up of different smells, textures and sounds. The plants in the garden provide stimulation and enrichment but each has also been specifically chosen for its healing properties and ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
Top plants for pooches
Chamomile: soothes anxiety, skin issues or stomach upsets.
Lavender: reduces anxiety.
Vervain: helps with nervous system disorders like depression.
Meadowsweet: reduces inflammation and aids digestive problems, arthritis and rheumatic conditions.
Did you know?
Dogs can suffer from hay fever just like people! Some research suggests that dogs are more likely to develop signs of hay fever if they aren’t exposed to a variety of grasses and plants in their early life.
As the weather improves, staff take the dogs into the sensory garden as much as possible, letting them potter around and enjoy games with toys – or water when it is very hot! The space is also used to work on basic training or socialisation skills and sometimes dogs will meet their potential adopters here, as it is a calming environment and the dogs feel at home. The Kennels team and volunteers are always on hand, watching over the dogs in case they have any unusual adverse reactions to the plants.
MARIA MARKEY, HEAD OF KENNELS, “It is truly amazing to observe the change in behaviour from when a dog enters the garden to how they are when they leave. ”
Scenting and exploring
Some dogs that come to Mayhew struggle to cope initially with a kennel environment, but staff find that even the most withdrawn and overwhelmed dogs will investigate the plants in the sensory garden. For example, dogs that are particularly highly strung or have hormonal imbalances often gravitate towards clary sage. While engaged in scenting and exploring, they stop focusing on any anxieties or tensions they may have and are able to begin to relax. The staff also use essential oil remedies in the kennels, to soothe and calm the residents.
Click here to read more about the Mayhew and how you can help
And of course, not only dogs appreciate herbs and plants, Mayhew's cats do too..... read about them here
I'm Gilly, award winning journalist, travel writer and 12 x author. I'm published in national and regional papers / magazines.