Older, and in particular traditional, orchards can shelter all kinds of wildlife. There are a variety of wildlife habitats within an orchard.

Orchard grassland

Regular grazing or hay cutting creates wonderful conditions for flowers such as orchids, meadowsweet, knapweed, dyer’s greenweed, hay rattle, and ragged robin. On wetter land, sedges and rushes may be found.

Tusoocky grass shelters the larvae of butterflies like the speckles wood. Longer grass left around the orchard margins favours small mammals, like field voles, which are preyed upon by barn owls.

The Cider orchard in blossom - Photo credit NACM

The Cider orchard in blossom – Photo credit NACM

Orchard trees

Older trees can be particularly valuable for mosses and lichens, and occaisionally misteltoe. Througout the year, the trees are a source of food for a variety of creatures.

In spring: Blossom provides a source of pollen for bees and moths, which it turn attract a variety of birds. Bullfinches may be unwelcome in commercial orchards, but tolerated in traditional, where they seek out buds for food.

In summer: The leafy canopy provides nesting sites and food for many birds. Mistle thrushes are the first to arrive, followed by Chaffinches and Goldfinches as the blossom fade. Green, great and lesser spotted woodpeckers, treecreepers, nuthatches and tits nest in hollow trunks, with little owls using larger holes.

In autumn: The fallen fruits are a good source for butterflies like the red admiral and small tortoiseshell. Windfalls are enjoyed by foraging badgers, mice, voles, and hedgehogs, and some creatures can become a little bit tipsy on enjoying too much fruit!
Birds such as jays, blackbirds, redwings, and fieldfares also feed on the fruit both on the tree and rotting on the ground.

It’s amazing what can be found amongst the UK’s orchards if you look close enough, from bats and butterflies to mistletoe and moths.
Chris Packham

How to help

If you’re really keen it’s a great time of year to plant trees, so do get hold of a native apple or pear and get planting in your garden.
See the BBC Breathing Places tree planting page for further information.

You could also get involved in a community orchard project. Find out more on the Common Ground website.