Monday, 30 June 2008

The seaside comes to town!

You don't expect to see a huge herring gull in suburban back garden, but this one came down to help itself to some rather nasty burgers that we tossed out for the foxes, rather than eat them ourselves, as they were so greasy. The gull flew off with a whole one in its beak. Although this is a large garden, there are a lot of bushes and it only just found enough clear space to take off.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Decline of the Stag Beetle

I have been in Hillingdon for the last ten springs and this is the first time I have seen no stag beetles at all. I think the problem is the succession of wet springs. The mating season for the staggies is the end of May, beginning of June, but night after night was rainy, blowy or cold, the very weather stag beetles hate. Now we have had a few barmy nights in late June, but I fear it is too late. The ones that hatched have failed to mate and will have died by now. The population has been in decline round here for a decade. Perhaps they have now died out altogether in this area.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Even more foxes

We have seen four foxes now. The vixen looks in poor shape, with half her coat lost to mange, s condition the cubs may well catch off her. The tiniest cub (see photo) appears to be blind in one eye. It's getting a little too tame and if we are not careful, it will soon be inside the kitchen. Don't think the cat would take kindly to that.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Young 'uns

The blackbird pair proudly introduced one youngster, his plumage still not quite mature, with a reddish chest and a black tail that looks too large for him. The starling families make me laugh as their young have beaks that look too heavy for them and I keep expecting them to tip over and get their beaks stuck in the lawn. This morning I spied a young great spotted woodpecker in next door's lilac tree. Like the starling teenagers, it has yet to grow into its beak!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Magpie challenges fox

The largest of the three fox cubs (perhaps one from a different litter as our familiar vixen has been spotted with two smaller cubs) is fending for himself, though he looks no more than three months old. This evening I put out a slice of bread with some baked beans on it. The cub took the bread, shook the beans onto the grass and ate them. He then tore off a strip of bread and ate that. Finally, he seized the rest of the bread in his jaws and hunkered down to eat it. A magpie swooped down and made several rushes towards the fox, head down, wings swept back, chittering loudly. One last dart and the bold bird actually tore a piece of bread from the fox's mouth and flew off with it. Talk about cheek!

Monday, 9 June 2008


The pond is alive with red ones and electric blue ones. If you look at the leaf in the top right of the photo of the blue one, you'll see the shed skin of a large brown dragonfly, possibly a hawker (I missed the hatching) that emerged earlier today.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Stag Beetles

Any time now, if the warmer weather holds, we should see if there are any stag beetles still around in the area. From a whopping 30 or so ten years back, there has been a dramatic decline. Last year we only saw about 9 beetles and I think the wet spring weather of the last few years has been largely to blame, though next door's four highly active and omniverous Bengal cats put paid to a few, unfortunately. They also murdered several frogs and this year, for the first time, there were no pairs mating in the pond.

The birds are doing well, though. There are three nests in the garden, blackbirds, robins and wrens. When the cat is out, I do my best to keep watch, ready to scare off any feathered creature on the lawn if I see a tail twitching in the shrubbery. Unfortunately, he hasn't got the skill to catch a magpie, the chattering of which outside the bedroom window is the bane of my life at present!

The vixen has at least two cubs, the boldest of which has been waddling onto the lawn all by himself. He is a curious little soul, in all senses of the word. The other day he sat beneath the hedge watching me, his head cocked on one side. I have ginger hair. Did he think I was a two-legged fox?