Friday, 31 August 2007
Squirrels and magpies
This year has brought garden firsts: in spring a magpie appeared at the bird table. I have seen them at the end of the track, a mile away, reasonably often, and kept my fingers crossed that they wouldn't find their way here, but the first of them did, only to be chased away by the wood pigeons and collared doves, much to my relief. I regard our garden as a small haven for the sparrows, wrens, dunnocks and robins that nest here in some numbers - no one rare, but all more beleaguered now than in the past. I get a good deal of pleasure from watching them, and several of the robins are very tame. They are often joined by the yearly brood of greater spotted woodpeckers and their parents, who stuff peanut bits down gaping beaks with the avidity of the desperate. The magpie has gone, for the time being, but I have no doubt they will be back.
With my usual inconsistency, I was quite pleased to see a grey squirrel from my office window. They haven't been in evidence here at all, but I saw one a couple of miles away recently, and wondered whether they would now make the trek across the fields. Today's was clearly one of this year's young, with a particularly splendid tail, which required much preening, when not stuffing hips and haws in his (her?) mouth. I fully expect to wake up tomorrow morning to find the peanut feeder has gone.
Now, I know that grey squirrels are every bit as destructive as magpies, but I am afraid they definitely score on the cuteness stakes. On my regular trips to Devon I spend a good deal of time watching squirrels, often while restraining a quivering setter, who regards it as his duty to rid the garden of vermin. On the other hand, should we become overrun, they are definitely better in pies than magpies (despite the name) and I shall have no compunction about sending the sons out with an air rifle. And there are no red squirrels here, since there is no suitable habitat.
So, for the time being, the squirrel is welcome. As certainly are the Partridge Family, who womble round the garden in the early morning, crooning gently to each other. It's a delight to draw my curtains and see them in the morning sunshine.