Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Squirrel feast

I've seen many strange things in this Hillingdon garden but a squirrel tucking into chocolate cake really takes the... er... biscuit!

Frost Fox

Here is Olive coming to beg for breakfast this cold and frosty morning, her eyes like golden headlamps.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Olive is flourishing

We started feeding little Olive (formerly Oliver), the runt of Russet's litter, because we doubted if she'd make it through the winter and we wanted to give her a fighting chance. She's now pretty near full grown and by the look of her, she should be in breeding condition soon, in which case her litter will by vying with Russet's to mop up the scraps on the lawn.

More foxes expected

The big vixen is pregnant again. No wonder she has been driving off this year's litter. This morning, in a hard frost and 3 degrees C, she was eating the bread I'd just thrown out for the birds. Unlike her daughter Olive, she is far too shy to pose for her photograph. But she is a magnificent, dark auburn beast with a massive, white-tipped brush. I have named her Russet after her colouring and am hoping to sneak a photo of her soon.

Perky little Olive still appears at our mealtimes, sitting in full sight with head cocked, hoping for a handout. I have seen her fight bitter battles with her mum, even sustaining a nasty bite on her back, but it hasn't deterred her. She knows what side her turkey sandwich is buttered all right.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Olive's den

Our garden is the perfect habitat for a fox. It has a wild nature garden down the bottom, it has a water supply - the pond - and it has food, all the after-dinner scraps and birds' bread. Now out next door neighbour has informed us that Olive has dug herself a den under the shed. Not the shed down the bottom in the wild area, but the shed right up close to the house and next to the fence, and her earthworks have provided a handy tunnel for next door's pedigree Bengal cats to escape through. Normally they are held captive by an electric fence - though Chi-Mimi, the crazy one, has outwitted every attempt to keep her in and makes massive leaps from their shed roof to ours and is frequently to be found asleep in one of our kitchen cupboards, or even the bread bin. I suppose a squashed white loaf makes a nice memory foam mattress for a cat.

Now my partner says he is going to evict Olive and block up her den. Methinks the wily vixen will outwit him. Place your bets now...

Monday, 22 December 2008

Bird Feeders

Now, I just don't get it. I put up one bird feeder, filled it with seeds and the bluetits and robins just couldn't get enough. In fact, one afternoon I saw a parakeet curled round it and hanging on for dear life as it picked tiny seeds out of the dispenser.

It was so successful that I went online and bought a bird feeding station, like a metal coatstand with hooks to hang feeders on. As the original bag of seed had disappeared so fast, I bought a new one together with some peanuts and filled three feeders.

And since then? The feeders are hanging there virtually untouched by anything except an enterprising wood pigeon who examined the feeder from the safety of a twig, then flew to the top of it, peered down at peanuts and seeds and worked out that if it stood on the handy feeding tray, it could just crane its neck high enough to poke its beak into the opening of the seed dispenser. More power to its feathers, I say.

As for the rest of the former customers, I say, 'What is it with you lot?' Do birds have a sense of taste? Could it be that they don't like the new seeds? (Though it says on the packet that they are for all wild birds: are you listening, parakeet? This doesn't include you.) Where am I going wrong? Or is it simply because the weather has warmed up and the birds aren't so desperate as they were last week when there was ice and sleet?

Friday, 19 December 2008

Foxes Galore!

Wednesday night is when the binbags go out round here. Driving back from Sainsburys around ten pm, we saw at least five foxes criss-crossing the road, their eyes glowing like hot coals in the headlights.

Last night, Olive and Kinky decided to play a game of chase under the van that is parked outside our house. In and out, round and round, jumping up on the tyres, having a whale of a time. Only trouble was, it was the middle of the night and their bickering and chattering woke me up. So did the security light that they kept setting off, which floods my bedroom with light. I hammered on the window but they were too immersed in their game to take any notice. Eye shade and earplugs for me tonight.

Monday, 15 December 2008

She's back!

Yesterday we were greeted with the happy sight of Olive sitting in her usual spot between the back of the pond and the cherry tree. She seemed very hungry and even after two honey sandwiches, several biscuits, some bacon rind and a frozen rabbit (don't ask) had been chucked out, she still came back for more. She probably had to drag the block of iced bunny somewhere to thaw out.

A most unusually coloured female blackbird has appeared in the garden. Its chest is the same shade as my hair, a sort of autumn leaf bronze. Oh, all right, ginger. It must be catching.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Olive's disappearance

For months now, the little fox has appeared regularly in the garden, especially at human mealtimes when she sits, head cocked to one side, gazing at us beseechingly. But her mother, the alpha vixen, started chasing her off and now she hasn't been seen for two days. I really miss her.

Last night, unable to sleep, I got up around 2am to heat up my hot water bottle. I stared out at the lawn and deck which were white with frost then suddenly I saw a narrow dark shadow. It didn't resemble a fox at all, yet it turned into one and there was Olive, making a run for the leftover stew, now frozen solid. She seemed very nervous as she grabbed a mouthful and fled, obviously wondering if she were about to be beaten up for trespassing on what once was, and maybe still is, her mother's territory. Mother meanwhile will be ready to mate again and produce next year's cubs. It was my hope that Olive might one day bring her cubs into the garden but I don't think there's any chance while her mother is still alive.

Mother is a magnificent creature with dark red fur which is almost a copper beech colour and a massive brush. But I still have a soft spot for her ginger daughter - maybe because I'm ginger too!