23 January 2017

On the wild side

It's been quite chilly in London for the last few weeks. It's noteworthy because our winters here have been a lot milder over the last decade or so, with only the occasional flurry of snow. Other countries can run quite efficiently with snow reaching depths of several feet and even to the North of Britain, deep snow is quite the norm, but at the sight of the first snowflake we southern wimps go into panic mode and despair. Roads are gritted with mine-fulls of salt to cope with the half-dozen flakes that settle on the ground and commuter trains grind to a halt unable to cope with the wrong sort of snow. Is there a right sort?

That said, this winter it has been unusually frosty since Christmas and I have been leaving the heating on 24-hours (reducing temperature at night) in case the water pipes decide to freeze and spring a leak when they thaw. Each morning I wake to dazzling white frosty roads, white grass and cars looking like they have been dusted with icing sugar. We have also been blessed with clear blue skies and by mid-morning the sun has melted any ice to give the plants in the garden a chance to rally round.

However I have been feeling sorry for the wild life. I love the squirrels that now visit my garden. I could never encourage them before when I had a dog and a cat as both hated squirrels with a passion and the dog would hurl himself at the patio window in an attempt to get at them, forgetting there was glass between them. The cat would hide incognito among the shrubs in wait for them, so any decent squirrel who wanted to see another day became used to avoiding our garden. Now my dog and cat have passed over the rainbow bridge, I recently decided to buy bags of peanuts for the squirrels to fatten them up over this cold spell. I painstakingly hide the nuts between the garden tubs on the patio, so the birds cannot get at them. Each day at breakfast time, I often come down to the kitchen to find at least one if not five squirrels waiting patiently for me to throw the nuts out for them. They sit on their haunches munching away until they are full, then take the remainder to bury for another time.  Some are now so tame, they no longer scamper away when I throw out more nuts for them. We are slowly getting to know one another. I study them while I sit inches away  on the other side of the patio door and have my breakfast.

But now I have also started feeling sorry for the birds. Not wanting to deprive the squirrels of their peanuts, I  have added bird seed to my weekly shopping list. I watch while the pigeons, blackbirds, thrushes, jays, magpies, parakeets, crows and two robins peck hungrily away at the spread on the ground, while the squirrels weave back and forth between them. Word is spreading as more birds seem to arrive each day. There's a good cafe five gardens to the right of the big chestnut tree. Plenty of seed and plenty of nuts. Come and join us. I like to think I'm doing my bit to keep their tummies full and survive the harsh winter. (OK, well, harsh by London standards!)

Apologies for the quality of the photos but they were taken through the patio window glass on zoom lest I scared them all away.....
Where's breakfast?

Oh, there it is

brown pigeons

One of two robins that usually come together


Two of the five squirrels have turned up. I cannot photo them all in the same place as they are so skittish, duck and dive all over the place, and run off to hide their finds.

Nom, this nut is so tasty

Hi. Any chance of some more?

I need both paws to hold this one.

Image result for jay
of course the jay did not turn up as I was taking photos, so  you will just have to believe me, but here's one I grabbed from the internet, courtesy of mbaker.co.uk


Valerie said...

Oooh squirrels are the bane of my life! I like them but I don't like the way they steal the birds food. There are five or six squirrel visitors, or perhaps I should refer them as lodgers! If it wasn't for the way they wreck everything, dig up the lawn and break bird feeders I might even get to like them.

Anna of Mutton Style and Years said...

Like you I'm wrapping up warm and I'm snuggling under a blanket on the sofa in the evening. The frost is so thick it's like a layer of snow in the fields. Im giving our chickens bacon fat at the moment. They seem to be enjoying it.

DD's Diary said...

I love this! Quite a guest list you have for your banquets. I'd like to feed the birds over the winter but can't as I'd just be providing lunches for my cats ... how lovely that you can now do this and have five squirrels of your very own :)

Maggie May said...

What a lovely post and how wonderful to have a parakeet! Very exotic!
I do begrudge the feral pigeons as they make such a mess of the pots and plants and they have recently broken an ornament out on the patio with all their violet fluttering.

Loved your account of the snow and the effect it has on us in the south and what is the right kind, I want to know?
Maggie x

Polly said...

Hello Addy, sorry this is all so late, congratulations to Doctor Kay. I have read your blog from the beginning and want to say how much admiration I have for you, what you have been through is heat breaking, thank goodness you had Kay to keep you strong. I know what it’s like trying to care for someone too ill to take care of himself and being on the receiving end of frustration.
Your parents sound like they were lovely people, I cried when reading your post about when your dad would have been 85. I’m glad your mum got her medal.
I laughed out loud reading “The joys of parenting, preparing to become a parent”.
You're writing about Snoopy’s pawly bottom was very funny. I sympathised with his (and your) encounter with a lump of wood at the back of his mouth. About 15 years ago one of my dogs did exactly the same thing with a piece of stick. I framed it as “The most expensive piece of wood from my garden”! I was so sad when Snoopy died, and later Velvet. Your tribute to Snoopy was lovely.
Your post of scattering Greg’s ashes was heartfelt.
Re your trip to Rome, I took an umbrella with me to India, many envied me!
Very pleased that you got rid of Geoffrey.
On our morning walks we go through a small wood, Rufus rushes in barking, hoping to catch a squirrel but they scamper up the trees in time.
Now that I have caught up I will be a regular visitor.
Regards Polly