115: lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit here, but one of the wonders of living out here in sunny Essex is the variety of wildlife we get in the garden. The majority of it is welcome but some – like the odd rat – is less so. Living near farmland and with a watercourse near the house it’s inevitable, of course, but I still don’t want them snacking on the bird seed.

My favourites at this time of year are the blue tits who colonise the nest box and produce a brood of noisy chicks demanding feeding. The first sight of the babies as they peek out of the hole and glare at us is always an ‘aaahhh!’ moment, and one of the very bedraggled and exhausted parents paid us a visit one evening this week too. Rather foolishly, it had stopped for a rest on the fence outside the back door which surrounds the cats’ outdoor space – Lulu thought it was her birthday but Thing 2 came to the rescue. The bird was remarkably tame (or possibly just knackered) as we were able to get very close. It flew from Thing 2’s hand to my head before we were able to put it safely out of reach of the cat.

The local shrew population has less luck when it comes to Lulu. The occasional one ventures in to the cat space (probably after the strawberries) and doesn’t live to tell the tale, instead becoming a love gift for my (and her) beloved. She’s always most annoyed when we take them away from her. She did bring a mouse in just before Christmas which we didn’t realise until it peeked out from behind my sewing machines, leading to a frenzied twenty minutes with a wooden spoon, an empty cheese sauce pot and finally a rehoming in the compost bin.

Today I have been joined in the garden by a baby sparrow, and every year we have robins, blackbirds, dunnocks, goldcrests, woodpigeons and collared doves. There’s a raucous family of magpies too, whose antics make me laugh. They are scrappy and behave like human siblings, arguing amongst themselves and rough and tumbling in the garden. The poor mother (I assume!) takes refuge on our neighbour’s roof, and as soon as the juveniles spot her they all go and join her. On one occasion there was a panicked squawking as one landed on the telephone wire and ended up upside down without enough sense to let go….

Other garden birds are woodpeckers, the odd sparrow hawk, starlings (nesting in next door’s roof), red kites soaring overhead, moorhens in wet springs and for the first time this year parakeets have flashed past. For several years we had a very tame pheasant who our builders named Colin after one of their colleagues who also strutted about. This year Richmond the Rook is a regular, stalking about in his fluffy rook trousers and hanging about with a couple of jackdaws.

The less feathered friends turn up too: we’re privileged to have badgers visiting from the Common as well as foxes, rabbits and the occasional muntjac. We can usually track their progress by the nibbled plants, much to my Beloved’s disgust. A slow worm can often be found in the greenhouse enjoying the warmth, while toads lurk under stones and tarpaulins and newts haunt the flowerpots. Most years we have a bumble bee nest somewhere, as well as squirrels and tiny mice.

One of my friends described coming through the back gate once as like walking into Narnia – sometimes I think she’s not far wrong!

Other things this week have included cheering on the RideLondon cyclists as they zoomed through the village, binging Stranger Things seasons 1-3 in preparation for season 4, seeing this year’s museum fox cubs playing in the sunshine, Thing 3 going off on his first solo sleepover at London Aunty’s house (it’s fancy, apparently), much crocheting of a shawl which is taking forever, a glorious swim, a mooch about the market, an early walk, and making some tiny things.

This week it’s half term and there’s only three days in work thanks to some Queen or other having a jubilee. The village has broken out in bunting already. I have promised my beloved that I’ll sort out my shed next weekend….

See you next week!

Kirsty x

The Betrayal of Trust/The Various Haunts of Men – Susan Hill

Villager – Tom Cox

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