Saturday, 31 January 2009

Garden bird supremacy

After I have thrown out the bread in the morning, it's amusing (and occasionally infuriating) to see which are the alpha birds and which come lowest in the pecking order. A female blackbird was first on the scene today. Then a wood pigeon arrived and ran at the poor blackbird, chasing it off. A magpie was next and the pigeon took no notice of it. (By now the blackbird had pulled a flanker by sneaking in and grabbing a crumb which it flew off into the bushes with.)

Then, with a dark beating of wings, big boss crow landed and strutted self-importantly into the centre of the lawn. The magpie flew off at top speed, the pigeons flapped away to a safe distance, though they didn't leave the grass. Meanwhile, Mr Crow was busy stuffing his large beak with as much of Sainsbury's 40p white loaf as he could manage. I let him have a certain amount and then I assert my own godlike position as the hand that feeds them, and flap my arms to scare him into the air while there is still something left for the other birds.

All the while, a tiny wren was perched on the hedge, just watching.

The robin always waits his turn and bobs along to hoover up anything the others have left. That's when I throw out a treat of seeds and dried fruit - cranberries being the favourite - so robins, blackbirds and starlings can feed in peace.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sparrowhawk strike

I was on the phone chatting to my daughter when, whoosh! A chestnut brown bird of prey with a long tail whizzed across the garden and came to rest in next door's apple tree. It was a male sparrowhawk, no doubt after one of the blue tits that frequent the garden now that I have hung up bird feeders. Bet the sparrowhawk is rubbing its talons together and saying, 'Thanks for the bait, you've made catching my dinner a whole lot easier."

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Feelin' fruity

Right now I am watching a pigeon pecking at an apple and a blackbird gorging on a slightly unripe peach. It was a spur of the moment decision to throw these out and see if any creature wanted them, but now I'm glad I did it, rather than dropping them into the bin.

A few days ago I found some pears lurking in a bag that were so much past their eat-by date that they were going brown and soggy. They didn't last long on the lawn. Four blackbirds finished them off in no time.

But not all fruit is acceptable. Take strawberries, for instance. I thought the blackbirds would whoop for joy when I chucked out half a punnet of slightly mouldy ones. A week later, they still looked like little rubies on the green lawn and the only things that had nibbled them were slugs. And as for bananas... I made the mistake of throwing one out, thinking that perhaps the fox would enjoy it. Wrong! It walked up, sniffed on it and promptly turned round and weed on it as a way of saying, "Do NOT give me rubbish like this again." A week later, the banana lay there like a brown, slimy turd, until it disintegrated and became one with the mud.

So the answer is to experiment and see what wild creatures will eat, and what they won't. A handful of dried cranberries and raisins went down very well indeed. On another subject, if your dog or cat turns its nose up at the biscuits or tinned food you have given them, throw them on the lawn. The foxes and crows will thank you and so, in summer, will the hedgehogs.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Fox play

The problem with living in a bungalow is that you're a bit too close to anything that happens at ground level outside the window, and that means fox activity. Last night, they were at it again, yipping and yakking and making those non-aggressive sounds that denote neither aggression nor mating activity. I dragged myself out of bed and peeped through the curtains and there were Olive and Kinky, her sister, playing a chase game round and round the car, under the van and out the other side, and even jumping up on the wheels and trying to get inside the wheel arch. That van is a great big playground toy to them and it was very funny watching them rushing and whirling and snapping at each other's tails as if to say, "Got you. You're it!"

I'm still trying to snatch a photo of the elusive Russet. I saw her sidling through the hedge but by the time I'd got my camera out, all I saw was the tip of her magnificent brush whisking between the bushes.