Breakfast visitors, bubonic plague and disturbing behaviour

I’ve mentioned my wildlife visitors before on this blog. This morning, after a very early stroll around Broadpool, Rufus and I headed back for breakfast. I put out the seed for the birds and almost as soon as I had gone indoors, the feathered guests arrived. I was able to get some nice photos of the sparrow and the wren, and later the fat pigeon. The blackbird family stayed at the top of the garden, and the magpie was a wuss and flew off every time a blade of grass moved. There was no sign of the frog, but he usually only pops his head out of the water at dusk.

Imagine my surprise and the innovate vocabulary that shocked even Rufus, when on returning to the kitchen to wash up I saw a rat on the wall, eating the remains of the birdseed. My first thoughts were of the camera (I am a dedicated photographer – I will probably photograph the inside of my coffin come the time). My second thoughts were of the imminent plague that was sure to start, and the buboles, and the sneezing, and the carts of corpses and the cries of ‘bring out your dead’, all of which were guaranteed to happen because I had a rat in the garden.

My next action was to let the rat know I was there and as soon as it saw me, it ran off towards the neighbour’s garden. I finished washing up and made sure Rufus was in. I started to think rationally, moving from how exactly I’d make a flame thrower to how much ammunition I had for the air rifle and finally to finding out more about Rattus norvegicus (the brown rat – I have to admit to being a little disappointed that I wasn’t faced with Rattus rattus – the black rat – as I’ve always loved the name). I looked out of the window again and Norvegicus was drinking from the bucket of frogs. I grabbed my camera for a great shot but, of course, it disappeared before I could get focussed.

I went searching on the internet for advice, fully expecting to have to get vermin control in.  I’m no amateur at getting information from the web. And I am not naive enough to take the first thing I find as the gospel truth. But the first site I found was entertaining in its panicky postings. It was a forum, and the original poster had seen a rat in her garden. The resulting responses ranged from ‘man-up’ to ‘shock and awe’ with many inventive (and highly dangerous) options in between. I finally settled on a combination of the Royal Horticultural Society site and the Animal aid site which seemed to offer level headed advice and some background information.

Apparently, the brown rat lives outdoors, hates anything new and almost all ‘infestations’ are as a result of humans feeding wild birds; birdseed is a favourite diet of the brown. It is neo-phobic; that means it’s intolerant of anything new. In other words, change it’s environment and it becomes uneasy and uncomfortable. Change it often enough and it will go away. The brown rat is not a plague carrier (that’s the black). You wouldn’t want to come into contact with it’s urine (but that’s true of any critters), but it isn’t the scary bringer of death that rumour and scaremongering would have you believe. And no, you probably are not within 20m of a rat as this is a myth.

If you’ve read my blog before, I hope you will have picked up that I don’t like to kill things out of hand. After all, spiders (I am an arachnophobe) are not out to deliberately harm me. So I always try to seek the least harmful solution to these situations. Rat poison was not an option, particularly with Rufus, next door’s cat and a fox to consider. So I decided on a programme of change.

First to go was the obvious rat run where I put the bird seed. There was a pile of bamboo that I was using to make fence panels as and when required. This was where the rat had disappeared into when it saw me. so they had to go. I wondered whether there was a nest there but I decided there wasn’t, as Rufus would have detected it long ago. It took me 15 minutes to clear them away and there was no sign of rat activity. Next to go was the big pile of pine branches and other trimmings that had accumulated near the house. This was waiting for disposal with my next door neighbour, who has a rubbish collection business. I had left it alone over the winter and in the spring wrens and a blackbird had nested there. Now they had flown the nest, I was happy to disturb the pile.

I was convinced I’d find something beneath the pile as Rufus had shown a lot of interest in the base of it recently. As I moved the branches to the side of the house, ready for collection, I found one of the nests still intact. It was made mainly of moss and grass and was quite solid, even after it had been abandoned for a while. It took me nearly an hour to shift everything through the side gate so that it could be picked up. And underneath – nothing.

During all of this, Rufus made sure the house was guarded against rat infestations by dozing near the front door. We all play our part in this house!

 

I ended the afternoon’s work by cutting up some logs for a friend’s wood burner. I think I managed to change the rat’s environment quite drastically over the two hours I spent in the garden. Combined with not feeding the birds for a while,  expect that the rat will not bother with my garden in future. But if it does, once I’ve got the photos, I’ll be dreaming up some more disturbing behaviours.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

No rest for the wicked

But I’m a good boy, so today was a day of rest after yesterday’s 6 mile wander in Gower.

Except I find it difficult to do nothing. I’ve talked to friends about this and opinion is divided. Some like to kick back and have no problem doing so, others find it hard to stop. So although I decided early to give my knee a break (not literally, of course) and take it easy, I soon found myself hoovering the house, and then cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen. Then it was out in the garden to remove great swathes of bamboo that grows right at the back.

I’ve spoken about the bamboo before, it’s where the Japanese soldiers live. Today, while they were away, I cut down about half of what was there. It’s still a jungle and it still makes a fantastic swishing sound in the wind, but less loudly now. The plan is to remove all of the bamboo and also bring down the levels of all the bushes and trees on the left of the garden so that my vegetable patch gets more direct sunlight. I also put up some Buddhist prayer flags that went with me to Everest Base Camp in 2011. They’re meant to be outside and only now have I got round to fixing them in place. Sadly, there are photos below of all my garden exploits.

Then it was time for a coffee and time to reflect on the poor choice of TV on a Bank Holiday.

Happy Easter everyone.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Gardening

I am not a gardener. I don’t know anything about gardening. Gardening to me is cutting back the green stuff until you can see through it to the other green stuff. Gardening is hard work. Particularly when I’m trying to identify the green stuff that might produce colourful flowers that I can photograph, or that might attract insects and butterflies to the end of my macro lens. I have books on green things, books on flying things and books on both, but still the back garden is full of green stuff that all looks the same.

Yesterday I did the first cut of the front lawn. Lawn is a term used merely so that you know what green stuff I’m cutting. My front garden is an adventure playground for cats. I cut the grass merely so that I can see the cats. Today was the first cut for the back garden. Notice I don’t even bother with ‘lawn’ to describe the back garden. If the front garden is an adventure playground, then the back garden is a full on Royal Marines assault course.

I take no pleasure from gardening (as you may have gathered). Gardening hurts. As I type this, a thorn has punctured my left forefinger and it is bleeding. Yesterday, I managed to drive a larger thorn into the index finger of my right hand, which I had to dig out by rooting around with a suitably sterilised pin. It is still painful, especially when I type. (That is the level of dedication I bring to this blog). My back hurts from strimming. My side hurts from various activities to do with strimming. I have scratches and scrapes. My glasses are covered in bits of grass and other green stuff thrown up by the strimmer. I dare not look at my hair as it is probably the refuge for living things disturbed by the strimmer.

I have an apple tree. It actually produces apples which I share with my friends. I used to have a lot of blackberry bushes but I went to war on all things thorny last year and after an intense and by no means one sided campaign, I have reduced them to a mere blemish against the backdrop of green stuff. There’s a tree at the top of the garden that my dad rescued from a ruined farmhouse as a sapling. The farmhouse once belonged to relatives of my mum. The tree, now more than 30 years old, is magnificent and reminds me of my dad. And it’s not green, so that’s okay.

At the top of the garden is a thick growth of bamboo. I like it (it’s only green at the top)  but I have no idea where it comes from. Next door used to keep birds so it could be from the seed (although the birds were kept in an aviary). I have a suspicion that some Japanese soldiers are hiding in there, not realising that the war is over.

I have the occasional special visitor in my garden. A pair of blackbirds return each year to see what I have left them to nest in. I make a point of stopping all major restructuring work when they arrive. I have had foxes several times, including one that decided to sleep under a bush at the top of the garden and another that had a look in at me through the garden window. That was wonderful to see. I had a hedgehog turn up one evening as I was looking through the telescope. It stopped long enough to let me take its portrait and to feed it some dog food (I checked in the internet and that’s what was recommended). So the garden isn’t all bad.

I have followed a friend’s advice and covered a particularly difficult patch of the garden with old carpet and sheets of wood in an attempt to smother the weeds and brambles that grow there. It’s been on for a couple of months now and the brambles have finally stopped struggling. The odd one still manages to poke it’s head between gaps, but they are swiftly taken care of. It’s unsightly, but I’m thinking for the long term. Besides, it makes a change from the endless green

So that, then, is my garden. A challenging, ever changing, green place.

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.