Whilst I mostly enjoy the wildlife encounters we have in our garden, there are occasions when the enjoyment is spoilt by things not quite going to plan and by the phrase ‘bringing the outside in’ being taken a little too literally. The events of a week at the beginning of August serve to illustrate this. It all began on a lovely warm summer’s morning …
A delightful flock of goldfinches landed in our birch tree, chip-chip-chipping away as they do. Being one of those rare warm mornings, we had opened up the backdoor relatively early and so the cats were out and about. Two of the goldfinches broke away from the flock and came hurtling across the patio and CRASH into our patio doors. One flew away, the other dropped like a stone into a strawberry pot. With lightening speed, inevitably there were three cats onto it and not much we could do other that to provide the successful captor with some mouth-watering tuna treats that persuaded him to let go so that we could at least give the little bird a decent burial.
Later the same day I glanced across the lawn to see Roly sitting under the cherry tree looking a bit perplexed. Roly is our re-homed, adopted male cat, who finally learnt to play with toys last Christmas. He loves chasing dangler toys on sticks and clearly he thought he was doing something similar but with a toy that didn’t seem to want to move anymore. On closer inspection the ‘toy’ turned out to be a grass snake! You may recall earlier in the year that I thought I’d spotted a slow worm sliding into our pond. Having now seen a grass snake, I’m convinced the first sighting was a slow worm as the grass snake was a completely different size and colour. As with slow worms, the main predators of grass snakes, it turns out, are cats. Well this one was clearly another statistic proving that! The grass snake was taken to join the goldfinch in that great burial ground beyond the garden fence!
At this point, you may be relieved to find out that this article is not going to be entirely about death! I’m pleased to say that they next two wildlife encounters were the ones that got away, starting with the bluetit in the wood burning stove! At this point I guess we should all sigh with relief that this was August and not the middle of winter otherwise this tale might not have had a happy ending. John was working at home when he could hear a very strange metallic noise. Initially he attributed this to our neighbour. I should perhaps explain that our elderly neighbour is the UK’s foremost expert on model soldiers and this can sometimes lead to some rather unusual noises emitting from his shed as he organises his batalions and exhibitions! However, our neighbour appeared to be out but, in checking this, John’s eye was caught by an odd sight in the wood burner – a trapped bird. He tried to open the door gently and catch it by hand but it was too quick. So he then had a small bird trapped in the house instead! Fortunately the cats were otherwise occupied in the garden so he was able to move furniture and open doors and eventually it flew out unharmed.
Later the same week I returned home to John declaring that the cats had brought in a really cute mouse! I assumed from the description as ‘cute’ that it was therefore still alive and intact! However, I was less keen on the idea that it might be running around the house. John reassured me that having tried to rescue it from two cats, one grabbed it. So John had grabbed both cat and mouse and taken them outside, at which point the cat had dropped the mouse and it had scampered off! I confess to having mixed feelings about this. Cute or otherwise, mice have a habit of chewing my compost bags and, worse still, getting into our loft and start tap dancing in the middle of the night. I can only hope that this one’s traumatic experience, will teach it to keep its distance!
Oh, and did I say that Roly likes a good dragonfly too?! Not sure how long lived this one was!