This article first appeared in the August 2023 edition of Birdwatching Magazine
Avid followers of this column will recall my childlike delight when no less than two hedgehogs managed to scale my walls and take up residence.
As I write this, the buds are breaking and the frogspawn accumulating and spring is reportedly around the corner (do igloo’s have corners as there is an arctic blast outside!) I don’t know if the hogs took up my offer of two straw-filled hibernation houses bought at Hawkeye’s insistence… if they did, they are showing restraint and ignoring the forecast of spring when winter is quite clearly still holding on.
Indeed the male frogs have been calling for a month now and spawn is sporadic. First blob in mid-February, and after a month of no action another blob has appeared. I know that ladies are fashionably late, but six weeks is pushing it a bit! Anytime after dusk, a step towards the pond evokes a plethora of plops as, no doubt two-by-two, frogs leap from the edge and glide into its depths. Last year’s spawn was overrun by pond snails. Pre-spawning we removed two hundred and gifted a friend in need. Two hundred more have surfaced, removed and left for critters to munch on.
Two field-mice were below the feeders tidying up the fallen seeds.
Two Ring-necked Parakeets have decided to come back to the Ark – they shunned us when we stopped hanging up apples for them. They were canoodling in January, so are now foraging for four and feeding a family requires them to sacrifice their pride.
A less welcome two-some make up the mammal contingent. Nothing deters the squirrel pair. They curl around spikes and gnaw through netting. Two manage to cling upside down to the same feeder robbing the birds of sunflower hearts. Even stares from a lady of my acquaintance, known to strike terror into heavyweight boxers, are shrugged off by squirrels. They only look cute if you ignore the nests they will go on to rob or their red cousins infected by these poxy pair’s relatives.
Our neighbour’s cat is not welcome. Heedless, it comes to bury yesterday’s digested food in our newly created raised flowerbeds. The six-foot fences are scaled; the extra two feet of chicken wire hopped over. Frustrated, Hawkeye had some spikes added to all the points of ingress. Including along the shed roof. To police this, two movement activated cameras were installed. Each morning we watch as the cat tip-toes over the spikes and finds another route when we plug more gaps.
One night a big brown ‘cat’ with a white tip to its tail appears on the shed roof, then shimmies down a clematis into the garden to fox trot around our pots. Seems like hedgehogs are not the only wild climbers in the neighbourhood.
Now we have a dilemma; continue to plug the cat gaps, or leave them free for Reynard? Two weeks of intermittent visitations and the ark is completed when Reynard brings the missus with him and they smooch about together. It turns out that is where the meal worms have been going. Our half a dozen blackbirds are not as hungry as we thought. Dog and Vixen have been snuffling into the pot tops and corners where we thought only blackbirds dared to tread.
But what a privilege! Forget ‘Spring Watch’ we have our own nightly show. Who needs the Scottish Moors or Norfolk Heaths when an urban yard the size of a decent lounge or two holds all this wildlife! Shame the pond is only about the length of a beaver or we might introduce a pair there!