This article first appeared in the October 2023 edition of Birdwatching Magazine
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that no good deed goes unpunished. Providence seems reluctant to give a sucker an even break. I’ve never held any to be true… until last week!
You know that I try to garden my postage stamp organically, for colour and wildlife.
My mini-pond housed two thousand pond snails that ravaged the frogspawn this Spring, so we re-located over a thousand to a friend’s massive pond in exchange for a jam jar of tadpoles. The snails had eaten the frogspawn ‘jelly’, despite the internet assuring me otherwise! Before, many adults, which together plopped into the pond sounding like a firecracker, have mostly croaked! Only five are croaking still. The imported tadpoles are growing fast alongside some diminutive home-grown survivors and we hold high hopes for another adult generation to vacuum up the slugs and snails, which ravage my tomato plants and reduce newly planted petunias to sad, leafless stalks,
One hedgehog survived hibernation, but left our yard for acres new. Sadly, we discovered the desiccated remains of its mate, with no sign of predation, we assume it had insufficent fat reserves to get through winter.
The squirrels still eat our birdfood, but the foxes… are another story. A sorry tale!
Mr Fox brought his missus in a few times and they sorted out our slugs and snails. They mostly feasted on the sultanas and mealworms we scattered in flowerpots for the Robins and Blackbirds that cannot manage to cling on to feeders.
We scattered the goodies below bushes and into half-hidden corners, which the fat feral pigeons are too thick to discover. Of course, foxes are clever by nature. They sniff out food wherever it is put. This we gladly tolerated… we feed the birds but are happy with any wild freeloader to take their share. In fact, it was a delight to watch the foxes on our security cameras, clambering down the wall then snuffling about making the most of our bounty. They would weave between the plants, jog along the tops of pots and sniff out natural food and our free offerings. We even began to deliberately add extra just for them.
Wild critters doing what they do, is magic. But what they do is not confined to partaking of purloined bird feed. When they take drink from the bird baths or pond they knock over the light plant pots. Once or twice we saw them eat a frog. Unlike the neighbourhood cats we tolerated this natural predation, not least because they ate every morsel, whereas cats kill and maul, but don’t make them a meal.
Then the dog fox started to dig up every bulb we had planted, making a mess of our small raised flower beds. If the bird food wasn’t easy to snaffle he hauled over containers and, of course, marked his territory, ‘burning’ delicate shoots.
Hawkeye decided this had to stop, so plugged the gap in the fence atop the wall where he got in. Big mistake!
He managed to get in, but then couldn’t get out. He jumped up to the wall knocking down a favourite bush. Then we watched, amazed and appalled, as he went into a seemingly vindictive frenzy. He pulled out canes, chewing them to matchwood. Grabbing stems he pulled over bushes completely destroying them with tooth and claw! It was hard to see his destructiveness as other than a pay-back tantrum. Our lovingly planted flowerbed totally zapped!
Giving a home to wildlife has backfired… we were hoist by our own Reynard!