Sunday, 30 December 2007

Wings over Uxbridge

From the window of the 607 bus going into Uxbridge I saw a large bird sitting on top of the Civic Centre offices. It took off, battling against the gale, and hovered over the RAF grounds, while its mate lurked in the skies above the road. It was a pair of kestrels. Talking to an ex councillor who used to work at the Civic, I heard that the birds had been nesting in the gardens behind the centre for many years. Their great, great grandparents were probably there when my friend was working there. A nice continuation of the species.

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


At last the pond fish have done what they are supposed to do in winter and are lying torpidly at the bottom of the pond, swishing a fin or tail occasionally - all except for Sandra, the athletic one, who still makes the occasional leap to the top and back. I think she's the only one that feels the cold.

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

Bird bonanza

I have never seen so many different species of birds in one place as I did yesterday. Seven green parakeets hung from the branches of The Singing Tree (next door's tall, slender silver birch, the topmost twig of which is the blackbird's favourite evening perch), dangling at various angles and splitting the air with their screeches. A tiny wren clung to the pond netting and took a drink. Three crows fluttered down on the wind like broken city umbrellas. A robin darted across a landing magpie's trajectory and stole its crumb. The leafless peach tree was alive with long-tailed tits. Blue tits and a great tit chattered excitedly in the tree next to them. A flock of starlings squabbled and shrilled. A pair of wood pigeons, as plump as Christmas partridges, waddled across the lawn.

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

Fox at the window 2

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

Fox at the window

Yesterday evening at about 7 pm one of our visitors - Jack, aged five - suddenly said excitedly, "There's a fox at the window." We all turned round and, sure enough, the fox that had regrown his fur following the course of homeopathy I treated him with, was on the deck, illuminated by the golden glow of the security light, with his nose pressed against the patio doors as if he was the visitor at the zoo watching the animals feed.

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.