Archive for the ‘Garden visitors’ Category

Yep its that time of year again where we brace ourselves for a 2 month campaign of cacophony, mess and general annoyance at the hands or claws of the Jackdaw horde.  This colony numbering in excess of 200 are now reinforcing with their Eurasian allies and planning their next conquest.  After 3 years of being hounded out of our bedroom from the incessant noise of the next breed/clutch of filthy younglings I began to fight back last year.  Honours ended even, bowed but not beaten I determined to turn the tide this year.

So in came our Atlantic Wall coastal style defences blocking off chimney pots and critically all the eaves where these despicable carrion skanks from Dunland attempt to gain access.  Sleeping lightly from bitter experience, in the last 4 nights our early warning radar has picked up a continual barrage of tapping almost sounding like drilling as the advance guards have been trying to break in through 2 layers of reinforced metal meshing.   BUT so far the defences have held.


You lookin’ at me? Must be Welsh


The devil incarnate – Omen style

Time will tell whether we have stopped them in their tracks this year but judging from the look of this mean mother I think its only the beginning. WATCH THIS SPACE for more news of anti-jackdaw measures (A-JM)

Afternoon nap for young Mr Vespa after quaffing too much of Languedoc's finest Picpoul de Pinet.

Afternoon nap for young Mr Vespa after quaffing too much of Languedoc’s finest Picpoul de Pinet.

So summers finally over and sitting in the garden dining al fresco (not sure if Iike that term) now has to be consigned to memory for another 8 months or so.  We’ve had a bumper year of new and interesting visitors to the garden so here’s one that to be honest I’ll be happy if it never ventures back again.

From mid August this year and the first time in a few years we had those pesky wasps turning up the moment food was put on the table.  Annoying and some had to be disposed of by drowning like Clarence not in Malmsbury wine but Wychwood cider bottle dregs.  So there we were sitting outside enjoying a particularly nice glass of chilled Picpoul de Pinet when a low droning sound caught our ears.  At first I just thought this beastie was a big wasp but as it headed towards the wine I realised this was something far more impressive.  Now according to DEFRA and UK wildlife literature despite their reputation the European Hornet (Vespa Crabro) as oppose bee murdering Asian kamikaze Hornets have no interest in Humans or their food and drink and are actually general docile, only becoming aggressive if threatened.  YEAH RIGHT, we were taking no chances and scarpered to the safety of the kitchen to observe this 1.5″ awesome terror. My first thoughts were to “go on Sidney spray the beast” with an entire can of Raid but despite its fearsome appearance I couldn’t help but admire it.  Before we had time to discuss further it landed on our bottle of wine and yep you guessed it, took a few little sips, climbed inside and plop, fell into the nearly full bottle.  Deciding not to kill it and more concerned about saving the wine I managed to eventually extricate it  by pouring the content through a gauze funnel into a jug. Mr Vespa didn’t seem too impressed with this and was glugging the wine for all his worth as he sat in the bottom of the funnel. Transferring him with due care to an upturned jar was relatively easy as he was totally sloshed by this time but it didn’t stop him attacking the glass for a few minutes before finally dropping off to sleep off his exertions.  A couple of hours later I removed the glass and got as close as I dared to get some pics. What a beauty (just click on the image to get a closer look), once he sobered up he flew unsteadily off, I’ve seen him once more since probably searching for more wine but he’ll have to wait another year now. The worry is that after some research it transpires that Asian Hornets have made landfall in Southern France and are migrating North. Now these b***ards are altogether a different proposition.

Avian activity

Posted: August 3, 2013 in Garden visitors, musings

In a break from my RAF game build up its time to celebrate a few shots of recent garden visitors deserving of special mention.  The week began badly with our 15 year old cat who has shown no interest in birds for many years successfully catching and eating whole a baby sparrow from one of the nearby families.  Even more unpleasant as we had to endure a whole afternoon and evening of the parents calling out for their lost baby.  The drama continued 2 days later with a downed Swift, bedraggled and just waiting to be discovered by the feline Gaius, aka the Sussex Sparrow murderer.  With help from the RSPCA albeit it 8 hours later he was successfully relaunched so feeling a bit happier after mourning poor old Ray Turdus Merula’s demise I’ve decided to put up some pics of our most recent visitors.  From the return of James cock Robin to the most recent arrival of a juvenile female blackbird determined not to miss out on the new bird feeder.


Who me? If its good enough for the tits and sparrows its good enough for me


Broadsword Dunnock to Danny Boy,Broadsword Dunnock to Danny boy no sign of vulgar robin. Prepare to dive and engage beak


Blue tit calculating whether new garden feature can be mated with, used as a posh armitage shanks or an exclusive tits only bird feeder


Poor Icarus Swift, after making a forced landing flying too long in the rain and being unable to take off. 8 hours later after 5 abortive attempts with help from the RSPCA I got this dude and his rather unpleasant parasite passenger airborne


Juvenile he/she blackbird (or thrush?) refusing to heed the “tits only” sign and gamely tucking into the fat ball remnants and joyous morsels contained within

Where's your tool?

Where’s your tool?

As I’m feeling somewhat melancholy today it seems only fit to report on the sad demise of our garden King.  My worst fears have been confirmed Raymondo the lardy Blackbird guvnor of our garden is sadly no more.  A few weeks back he made his usual triumphant entry to our garden giving it the large one with his lovely birdsong battle cry which I think translates in a Ray Winstone accent  as “Oiiiiiaaaaaaaaaa NO! I’m the daddy here, where’s your ******* tool? But as he hopped about his Kingdom we noticed something was amiss as he seemed to topple over a few times.  Still shovelling food in his mouth to take back to his equally formidable missus and hopefully clutch of young turduses (or should that be turdi………?)  it was evident that he had hurt one of his legs/claws and was in some discomfort when he tried to stand on it.  At that very moment I had that horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you know the worst but can do nothing about it.  Sadly that was his last visit and I only hope he didn’t suffer too much after that.

I never thought I could get so attached to a wild animal but I really do miss him.  In fact just writing this account is actually upsetting me more than I imagined.  I started feeding our garden visitors last October and Ray was one of the first to turn up. At that time he’d suffer no other invaders to his realm and chased every other bird off aggressively and then proceed to eat every single scrap that was left out.  It got so bad I had to put up a second temporary bird table to give the others a chance to get some food. From that very moment he was a daily visitor and happy to let me stand within 1 foot of him.  I fed him every day a varied diet of amongst other things bird seed, nuts, breadcrumbs, apple (his personal favourite) luxury cereal, digestive biscuits, etc,etc, breaking the ice off the water to allow him to drink which he did in bird equivalent gallon measures.  Oh and then there were the homemade fat balls! Gods holy trousers did he like these. If the perch could take his weight he’d use it otherwise he would launch himself straight at the ball with his beak open and lunge into it before landing on the ground with a load of fatty seeds and treats stuck to his beak, bless him.

At the start of the year, 2 different female blackbirds arrived on the scene and he began his courtship of both! These lovely ladies then had pick of the food as he stood in the shadows guarding them from suitors or danger.  In March his diet changed as he started searching more and more for worms which he took back to the nest of his chosen bird…….  I was happy to oblige in his search supplementing it with tasty looking grubs found under flagstones and the like.  The grubs he particularly liked as they went straight down instead of taking them back to the nest (with a “don’t tell the wife look”)   One day I fed him 12 worms on the trot from less than a foot away.  His only concern being that after about 8 he couldn’t fit anymore in his beak to take to the nest and didn’t want to leave them behind.  The symbiotic relationship I developed with this awesome little eating machine dude has kept my spirits up when I’ve been miserable. Sadly missed

2012- May 2013 RIP

At his best, with a beak covered with fatball heaven
2012- May 2013

One positive note is the recent arrival of a juvenile Blackbird “Becks/sie” still mottled but looks to be a male from the darkening back feathers and judging by his behaviour could well be one of his offspring.  Similar taste in food too although he seems to have a particular penchant for cake crumbs,  Victoria Sponge being his particular favourite.  So as they say ” The King is dead, long live the King”