Sunday, 30 December 2007
Wednesday, 26 December 2007
Took a Boxing Day stroll alongside the Grand Union Canal and saw Three Swans A-swimming, plus a family of two adults and three teenage cygnets. Though from the angle in which I photographed the latter, there appear to be only four heads between five swans! Whereas the threesome were scooping the water for food, the Swan Family Robinson were pecking at the plants on the canalside, taking whole stalks in their beaks as if stripping them of nutrients. I've never seen swans do this before.
Saturday, 22 December 2007
There's netting over half the pond but that didn't stop a passing heron from chancing its luck yesterday. It swooped down, stood on the edge looking in, my partner spotted it and flapped his arms and off it went, soaring in stately fashion over the treetops.
The green woodpecker was searching for ants in the lawn again this morning, stabbing at the frosty surface with its hammer of a beak. Don't think it got much. The ants are probably keeping warm way underground, with little anty hot water bottles and noggins of fermented aphid dew.
Monday, 17 December 2007
The only characters missing were the sparrows. But when I went to post some cards, a privet hedge was alive with them, which made me think that it is habitat, not food, that is driving them away from our cities. When I was a child, everyone had a privet hedge and ivy was not stripped from trees and gutters, and thick hedge, ivy and old iron gutters were where sparrows regularly nested. Luckily, Hillingdon still hangs onto a large number of privet and thorn hedges and so the Hillingdon sparrow population is a healthy one. I counted a flock of 14 pecking up crisp crumbs on the pavement in Polehill Road last summer. Their cheery chirping really raised my spirits.
Wednesday, 12 December 2007
The fox visited again today. The cat doesn't seem a bit fazed. After he had dined on scraps, he quenched his thirst at the pond. I feel so proud of his thick coat and magnificent brush. To think that a few months ago he was bald and had a tail like a rat's. What a result! I am a convert to homeopathy now. Someone asked if I was sure it was the same fox. I am. I recognise his face and his expression. I think that he now associates humans with feeling well again. Feral foxes have a lifespan of only a couple of years, but I like to think I've given him back a year of his life, because, when he was suffering from sarcoptic mange in the summer, the outlook was bleak and he was unlikely to have survived the winter. Now I think he's in with a good chance - especially as we have a particularly large turkey this year!
Monday, 10 December 2007
He wasn't fazed when he saw us all watching him, but turned round and trotted off to pick up some scraps from the lawn. Let's hope he doesn't take it into his head to come visiting through the cat flap.
Friday, 30 November 2007
As I walked down the road at around 2pm yesterday, I thought it was strange that there wasn't a bird to be heard or seen. A sudden suspicion caused me to cast my eyes upwards and there was a buzzard, wheeling in ever increasing circles until it lazily cast off over the school playing fields. Wish it would spot some of the rats that have nested in our rockery. Or maybe not. Poison has been put down for them so it's best that the buzzard carries on going to school.
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Then came the stripy ones like small humbugs. Then the daddy longlegs spiders that quivered in lofty corners (and beside the loo).
Now they have had their day and in their place, but outside the window, thankfully, are hordes of small, squat ginger ones. Does each different wave reflect the type of prey that is around at that time? The smaller the spid, the teenier the fly? If so, what were the huge ones catching? Hornets? Bumble-bees? Or hapless humans that strayed into the kitchen in the wee small hours, looking for an aspirin, a drink of water, a large scotch, or a can of Raid?
Saturday, 3 November 2007
Thursday, 1 November 2007
Two years ago I saw the hind for the first time. This spring she was joined by a stag. At first, I didn't know what I was looking at. Animals the size of a large dog, but one with tiny horns? It was my partner who identified them. He tells me there used to be a private wildlife park near the Heinz HQ and he thinks they have escaped from there. I'm hoping they had offspring as it would be great to see a whole herd of them and I'm sure we can spare the odd apple. I hate Bramleys, anyway! But they can keep their teeth out of the Cornish Aromatics.
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
The sad sight on the left was a young fox with sarcoptic mange that was in the garden almost all the time three or four months ago, scrounging any food it could get. Its brush was like a rat's tail, it had practically no fur and it didn't look long for this world.
In desperation, I Googled fox mange and arrived at the website of the National Fox Welfare Society. They provide a homoeopathic treatment free of charge. It's a combination of Arsen Alb and Sulphur 30c, for those who know anything about the subject. The instructions provided suggested making the fox a jam or, even better, honey sandwich every night for a month, and sprinke 4 drops of the treatment on it. Well, it worked. Look at the brush on the same fox now (right-hand picture) and the thick fur that has grown, now that the poor creature is no longer scratching itself bald. Left untreated, the animal would have died within four months. Now, hopefully, the little dog fox will go on to father a family and live at least a couple of years.
I sent them a donation by way of saying thanks. Not everyone likes foxes, or the way they have proliferated in urban surroundings, but Hillingdon isn't inner London. There are more than 30 miles of countryside on the Hillingdon Trail and room for a few foxes, I think.
Friday, 19 October 2007
"Wit, wit-wit." It's not a blackbird's alarm call. Too loud for that and not quite the right tone. Too much 'body' to the voice. It sounds more like, "kwik-kwik." Then the sound is followed by a weak, experimental sounding 'whoo'. Aha! That sounds more like an owl. And hey, there's another one, on a different oak tree, answering it. But wait - it's only three in the afternoon. How can it be owls? I run for the binoculars and climb up a ladder. I spot an upheaval on a branch. It looks like a large bird flexing and flapping its wings, preparatory to taking its first flight. I'm thrilled. I feel privileged to watch what may be the debutante flight of an adolescent owl. Then my hopes, together with my interest, are dashed. The flaps I have seen turn out to be nothing more than two randy wood pigeons having it away. Damn! Owls, where art thou?
In the last few days I have found out that they are probably tawny owls, which leave the nest any time from August to November, to establish their own territories. The RSPB have put them under Red Alert because their numbers are declining so rapidly, so I really hope that two Hillingdon owls are off to found new dynasties in the area.