A bit like living in the Serengeti, life in the suburbs is often shared with uninvited wildlife. When the weather gets cold in the winter months, the mice will occasionally venture indoors in order to escape death by hyperthermia. Always a risky option though, with two cats in the house. Most of the mice who decide to drop by are in fact kidnap victims and unfortunately, only some live to tell the tale. I can usually detect the guttural growl of Sooty as she crouches over her prey and if I am quick enough I can distract her long enough to give the mouse a chance to get away. I then have to lay my humane trap in the nearest location and bait it with marmalade in the hope of catching the beast before she does. Fortunately, my now elderly cats tend find the effort of the catch too much of a strain nowadays. A blessing all round.
My most unusual visitor was a pigeon who wandered in the front door when I opened it to guests. He walked straight through the house and when I opened the back door he was happy to keep on walking. He then spent several hours wandering round in circles in my back garden. Someone suggested that perhaps the pigeon was recovering from a shock, such as flying into a window, or being knocked by a car. He just needed a safe refuge until his GPS tuned in again.
A close second for unusual visitors was the frog I found trying to get in through my front door. We live nowhere near ponds or water, so he had walked some distance to get to my house. I really should have caught him and put him out the back, but it was confusing to find a frog and in my confusion I simply left him there while I wondered what to do. I’m pretty sure that the fox found him on his nightly patrol and made a tidy snack out of him. I could of saved him if I had though more quickly, but how do you look after a frog with no water bar the bird bath?
One summer’s day a beautiful dragonfly wafted in through my open back door. He settled on a bookcase and closed up his gossamer wings to have a short rest. I decided to trap him with a tea towel and put him back outside where he could find a mate and do what nature intended. I missed him of course and then the beautiful fairytale turned quickly into tragedy as he became stuck headfirst in a small opening above the back door. I could not remove him without potentially pulling his head off, though I did get my tweezers out to try. A friend consoled me with the fact that dragonflies do not have very long lives anyway, but that did not absolve me of the guilt I felt at doing nothing but panicking while his life ebbed away.
I have my fair share of spiders of course and they seem to particularly like the bathroom. One built a web like a hammock in the corner of the window. He regularly invited other spiders into his home for a snack as well as catching the odd fly or two which came in through the open window. He thrived there for many months and didn’t seem to mind having to share the facilities. Then one morning I noticed he had gone. I waited for him to return from his trip, but he never did and within a day or two his taut web became saggy from neglect. I realised that he must have invested time every day securing his web to the less than welcoming vinyl window frame in order to keep it so pristine. Spiders are so very industrious, building and maintaining webs for the sake of the few meagre scraps which pass their way. Continually underrated and unloved, if I had one wish it would be to reverse spider phobia and make them into lucky talisman. These poor little chaps have enough trouble making their way in the world without us squashing them at every opportunity.
A cheeky pansy managed to find its way in through the bathroom window and plant itself in the fertile soil of my pot plant. This is what I love about nature; its sheer tenacity and ability to seize every opportunity for life. We have a lot to learn from that little pansy.
I find woodlice all round the house; usually dead but not always. I found a huge one crawling up the outside of the bath. How do they get in and why? I found a beetle in the dish cloth and realised just in time as I went to wipe the table with him. For a time a whole bevy of slugs managed to find their way through, under or around the front door to come in at night and line dance their way across the front room carpet. I only every saw the silver trails left behind in the morning after a night of merriment. After I stepped on a couple barefoot, who had only managed to make it to the door mat, I carried out a raid and found all their daytime hide outs, evicting them back out into the front garden.
Urban Wildlife Diary is now one year old. My first observation was written in December last year 2012. I continue to be fascinated by the wildlife in my tiny urban garden and I know that others have been surprised by just how much you can see if you stop and look and wonder. But as the year turns I feel that we need to get into the technological age. It is just pure luck if I happen to look out of the window when a sparrow hawk decides to sit on my fence. For all the things I see I also wonder what happens when I’m not looking. What goes on in the shed in the dark of the night and just how many visitors sample my simple menu of seed and mealworm? Urban Wildlife Diary goes live for 2014 as I fix up my new motion sensitive camera. Nothing will escape the beady eye of my ‘bird-cam’. I look forward to sharing both the stories and the action pictures with you over the next 12 months.
Happy New Year and thank you for joining me in my Urban Wildlife Garden. Please visit again soon.