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Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category


The puddles have been iced over most of the winter, but they seem to have survived quite well; the water lilies are sporting new shoots that are ready to head for the surface soon, and now that I’ve cleared out the algae it’s also possible to see that some habitants are still living there – and some have returned from winter hibernation on land.

Always have a toad in the Puddle

I spotted one toad in The Puddles, but the one pictured above is actually one that was rescued from the drain well where it had fallen in, so I had to fish him out and relocate him to The Puddles where he has a chance to get out of the water if he wants to. Or she; what do I know.

Newt

We also have two newts in one of The Puddles; that’s one more than last year, and I continue to be thrilled by these creatures. When I was a child my Grandmother took us over to the bog to catch salamanders to release in their forest pond, so I’m ecstatic to have them join me in the Flâneur Garden quite of their own volition. I’m hoping desperately that they will decide to use The Puddles for procreational purposes, but I’ll leave that up to them…

Aquatic snail

Another set of volunteer immigrants are the aquatic snails. I really have no idea how they got here, but I guess they must have come as stowaways on some of the plants that I’ve set in The Puddles. Somehow I like these much better than land-based snails and slugs. (Well, except for the Roman snails which I also love.) The largest one has a shell that’s nearly an inch long, so they are not completely tiny.

Of course we also have water beetles, water bugs and lots of other insects – including a population of mosquito larvae that is quickly being decimated by the other inhabitants of The Puddles, much to my satisfaction.

The area around The Puddles looks quite bare still, but the perennials are beginning to shoot and soon it will once again be slightly overgrown and the black edges of the three tubs will be obscured by hostas, sedums, wild strawberries and so on, so I’m chuffed to bits and full of anticipation.

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Squirrel

Today for the first time I saw a squirrel come into the covered terrace, even though the blackbird tried to scare him away. However, what is interesting is that this was a black squirrel, whereas I’ve only seen red squirrels in the garden up to now.

squirrel

Apparently all squirrels on the Danish islands used to be black, but red squirrels from Sweden and Northern Germany were introduced in the 1930’s and have all but out-done the black squirrels. So a black squirrel is a rare treat, though perhaps he doesn’t look as glamorous as his red cousins with their fiery-orange fur.

Mind you, this little fellow is a clever one. Between the picture above and the picture below, he jumped down onto the terrace floor, grabbed one of the feed balls that I have left on the floor for the robin and the blackbird and other birds who prefer to forage on the ground, and in a second he was off over the low wooden wall, carrying the feed ball with him in his teeth.

As he was scampering across the lawn with his loot, a crow swooped down on him to steel the feed ball, but he deftly took refuge in the oak tree and eventually made his way to the hedgerow with his dinner.

Shortly after this incident the second feed ball on the terrace floor was attacked, this time by the pheasant:

Pheasant

(And yes, the windows need cleaning, but that will wait until spring…)

He managed to peck the feed ball to stumps before dragging it out into the snow and then sauntering off towards the hedgerow, leaving me to tidy up his mess. Now really, Mr. Pheasant? Was that quite necessary?

Apologies for the poor quality of the pictures, but that’s what you get with a phone camera. I guess some day I should ask for a proper camera for Christmas or a birtdhay or whatever, but for now I’ll just count on your imagination to make these pictures look like wonderful wildlife photography!

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I have several problems with the feed balls that I put out for the small birds in the covered terrace. They do attract all sorts of passerine birds – blue tits, great tits, nuthatches and a robin – as well as blackbirds and the occasional woodpecker. (Woodpeckers, by the way, look rather silly when hanging upside down from a feed ball suspended from the ceiling…)

However, it seems I am also feeding the local pheasant, a few crows, jays, magpies and even a field vole.

Pheasant

Now, I ask you, does the picture above look like a blue tit? A robin? Any other bird you’d feed with store-bought feed balls? Indeed not… (The picture, by the way, is from Wikimedia Commons, as my phone struggled to get a decent shot of the pheasant through the windows, in spite of it being only three meters away from where I was sitting in the sofa…)

And, well, if my phone struggled to get a picture of a pheasant on the terrace, you can imagine why the next picture is also from Wikimedia Commons:

Field Vole

For some time now a small field vole has taken to foraging for food on the terrace, hiding under the low wooden perimeter walls whenever anything moved, but today the little critter decided that rather than constantly running out, nibbling on a feed ball and then running back to the shelter of the wall, he’d drag the feed ball with him to the wall so he could sit under the wooden wall and nibble at the feed ball just in front of him. Clever, I grant him that, but of course hardly why I bought the feed balls.

Still, I guess my complaints are all just for show. In fact I’m thrilled whenever I see my little vole, and I love the fact that the pheasant cock has been on the terrace four times today, at one point lingering there for a whole hour, mere meters away from me. I even find it amusing when the crows come into the terrace, because let’s face it; crows really aren’t good at navigating in small spaces so they keep knocking into garden furniture and woodpiles et cetera.

It really is the best reality show to be found. I love how everybody has their own personality; the blackbird is the bully, that much is for sure, and she constantly tries to get all other birds out of the terrace, though when the pheasant arrives it seems she gangs up with the tiny robin to find strength in numbers. Though a robin and a blackbird really don’t seem to be enough to scare a large old pheasant cock…

The great tits have a clear pecking order; there is an older, rather dishevelled-looking bird that seems to have a mane of grey hair, if you can imagine what that would look like, and he/she is definitely the boss of the other great tits. The blue tits don’t care, though; they are playful and carefree, bordering on the irreverent, and they flutter merrily about whenever they are chased from a feed ball. They will also gladly perch three at a time on the same dangling feed ball, which does cause problems if they are scared away as their wings seem to get in each other’s way, occasionally causing them to drop as a ball of feathers for half a meter before they disentangle themselves and manage to actually fly.

Then, of course, there are the nuthatches. They seem to be entirely indifferent to all other birds on the terrace; they merely come to eat, and if there’s no room on any of the feed balls they fly back out into the garden. The woodpeckers are the same, though they don’t care if there is room or not, as all the small birds obviously evacuate whatever feed ball a woodpecker decides to land on.

The jays and magpies are, of course, rascals. They eat very little but make a great mess of things. It seems they’d rather play football with the feed balls than actually eat from them. They put on a great show, but I can’t help thinking they’ve sort of missed the point of the whole concept.

My favourite, though, is the little robin. The Eurasian robin is a tiny bird – unlike the American robin which is a thrush, I believe – and he seems so shy. It takes next to nothing to get him to seek shelter under the garden furniture, but for some reason he has decided that – unlike the rest of the birds – he will pay little attention to what happens inside the house. When I rise from the sofa the tits will almost invariably be scared away, but the robin will keep pottering about, pecking at a feed ball here and a pile of dead leaves there.

But personal favouritism aside, of course the pheasant is the star of the show, and he knows it. He is clearly proud of his appearance, and rightfully so. Also, there is something fascinating about such a large bird visiting the terrace and being only meters away from my spot in the sofa corner. And, of course, I reared a brood of pheasants once when I was a child. I bought 18 pheasant eggs and got one of my broody hens to lay on them. (Did you know pheasant eggs have the most beautiful olive shell?) She managed to hatch 17 of the eggs, which was far better than I had dared to hope for, and she was a wonderful mother to them, though she seemed very confused that their natural instinct was to run away whenever she warned them of a possible danger – like anybody coming anywhere near them – rather than cower down and hide as chickens would do.

I never tried to domesticate my pheasants; they were destined to be set free on my paternal grandfather’s farmland, and the more of their wild instincts they kept, the better for them. My grandfather loved to go hunting, so I sold the pheasants to him, and just in case you find me cynical, these pheasants got to live a great life outside in fields and hedgerows, and if they had the sense to stay on my grandfather’s land they will all have died of old age since he was a very poor shot and not a single one of them ended up on his dinner table or as a feather in his cap…

(Apart from pheasants and chickens I also had ducks at one point – they suffered an untimely death as I had bought the ducklings as an investment and thus put them all down and sold them off for Christmas dinners when they were nice and plumb. But they did have good lives, I assure you.)

However, now night has fallen, the birds have gone to where birds go to sleep and there is nought to be seen on the terrace – indeed the terrace itself is barely visible in the darkness. So now: Time for dinner!

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First of all, let me show you what it looks like these days when I leave the city and go up to the summer house – and the garden…

Snow roadThis is what it looks like when I walk from the bus stop – end of the line – towards the summer house. The road has the forest to one side and some natural plots to the other, so it gives an all-together feeling of being away from the city. You do see houses on the left, but very few – and they are sheltered by trees and hedgerows.

Snowy Forest

To the right the forest spreads out; a mix of mainly oak and beech with pines and larks in-between. And lots of honey suckle, but you don’t really notice these in winter…

Deer Beds

In the garden, the first thing that you notice is that there are several spots where the snow has been melted away, even though it has been freezing consistently for weeks. This is where the deer have lain down to sleep, thus melting away the snow on the lawn. I find this very charming, and today two of these spots were clearly fresh – and there was a third one (top left of the picture) that was perhaps from last night or the night before.

Deer tracks

Actually, the snow makes it pretty easy to see how frequented our garden is by wildlife. Most of these tracks are by deer, but a few of them seem to come from smaller animals with paws rather than hoofs. Perhaps a fox? And of course lots of birds, ranging from the size that HAS to be crows to the smaller ones that might be tits or robins.

Robin / Erithacus rubecula

I have one robin that seems to like the covered terrace; while the great tits and the blue tits come in pairs – or flocks at times – there is only ever one robin at a time on the terrace, and I like to imagine it’s the same one. And now when there’s snow all around it seems – oddly enough – that the tits are less keen on the feeding balls, whereas the robin keeps coming. He/she doesn’t like the hanging balls, though, preferring instead to feed on the seeds that fall off when the tits are feeding, so I decided to leave a feed ball on the paving for him/her, and he/she really seems to enjoy this. (Please note how – apart from the tail and the beak – the bird seems to be as round as the feed ball…)

Snowy Puddles

Also, just because people seem to like this garden feature / folly, here is a view of The Puddles… You can just make out the outlines of the third one at the back, but really they are all frozen over and covered in snow. I hope this means my water lilies will be safe beneath the blanket of snow, but you never know… After all, they are rather shallow, so I might have to start over in spring.

Anyway, back to what this entry was supposed to be about – which was not wildlife, but snow lanterns!

Lanterns in the snow

Strictly speaking, these aren’t snow lanterns, but when the snow is deep enough, why not just immerse lanterns in the snow?

Lanterns in the snow

Now, those among you of a nautical persuasion might argue that I placed the lanterns in the wrong order (red = port and green = starboard), but these pictures where taken from the entrance to the terrace, so clearly they will then be in the right order when you approach the harbour / house. And after all, nautical markers are normally placed so they make sense when you approach port, rather than when you are leaving it…

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I recently splurged on a new pair of wellies. My old ones were a) two years old, b) not a very good quality and c) leaky, so I think it was a justifiable expense. After much humming and hawing I ended up selecting a very fetching little number from Karrimor, and they are definitely leagues beyond my old one, though they didn’t cost more. Only goes to show, sometimes price and quality are in no way connected…

New Wellies

So to test them I went down to the fjord to see if they will hold the water out, and they DO! Now, this is perhaps not surprising, but having worn leaking wellies for a couple of months now this really is a wonderful feeling! I got them a size too large, so I need to wear two pair of thick woolly socks for them to fit, but this was on purpose since there really is no inbuilt warmth in wellies.

God, I love them!

They do look very much like a new pair of wellies still – not surprisingly – but I’ll soon have them muddied up so they fit in with the rest of my gardening attire. (Please note how both knees have gone on my gardening jeans…)

Anyway, since I was down there and had the phone out, here’s the view:

Swans on the fjord

The weather is being very “November”, but fortunately with very little rain, so it’s all right, even though I’d like to see the sun again some day. The white dots on the water are swans – hundreds of them! I guess they find it easy to fourage in the shallow waters of the fjord – my new wellies could probably take me 300 meters out in the fjord before the water becomes too deep…

There’s not too much going on in the garden right now; I’m prepping for winter, mulching over roses and other plants that could do with a duvet in case we have a cold but snow-free winter like the last one. The lawn has had it’s final cut, all plants are planted – or at least healed in in temporary positions – and my dahlia tubers are visiting my Mum and her frost-free shed over the winter. (She’s pampering them; she just changed their newspaper wrapping this week since it was a bit too damp… I hope she doesn’t spoil them too much so they end up not wanting to come back to my garden and my rather hap-hazard gardening style!)

Does anybody else send plants off to stay with relatives over the winter? Ah, so it’s just me, then… I suspected so.

Anyway, it’s early morning here, so I’d better crack on with the chores. There’s coffee to be drunk, hot buttered rolls to be eaten and – of course – a warm cosy fire to be cuddled up in front of. Gosh, so many things to do!

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Great tit

Pardon the bad punning title… I couldn’t resist.

As you can see, the tits are taking to the feed balls I’ve hung up to replace the candles they were munching on. At times there are five of them scampering about, hopping from one ball to the other and seemingly having a great time. It seems like Grand Central Bird Station out there… Great tits, blue tits, some non-tit bird that I don’t know – but will have to look up – and even a crow trying to get into the action, though he lingered too briefly for me to get a photo, since he quickly realised that perching upside-down on a hanging feed ball is NOT the ideal position for a bird of his build…

Great tit

They still haven’t quite worked out what’s food and what’s not, though…

ONCE upon a morning sunny, while I pondered puns so funny,
Typing up a quaint and curious blog entry about my tits,—
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my outer door.
“‘T is some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door;
Quoth the great tit: “Feed me more!”

(Freely interpreted from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”)

Yup… There was a tapping on the front door, and it turned out to be a tit who – by all appearances – was attempting to eat the front door. I do believe they are taking it a bit too far. One thing is to eat my candles, but to attempt eating my front door is quite beyond the pale.

Great tit

They’re great entertainment, though. Even if they are occasionally a bit of a nuisance…

Edgar Allan Poe

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I have a tit problem. Or rather, the tits in the garden have a problem. They seem to be rather confused as to what consists bird food and what doesn’t.

We have had three large candles standing on the table on the covered terrace, and it seems the tits have mistaken these for food. Now, had it been late in winter with little food around, perhaps it would have made some sense, but considering that we’re still just in mid-autumn I really don’t understand why candle wax seems such an appealing dish.

In this picture you can see the marks of the tits in action along the left rim of the candle. (Obviously it wasn’t light while they munched on it.)

Candle or dinner?

Now, clearly I can’t have the birds eating my candles, but since they clearly like to snack on stuff around the terrace I figured I’d find them something more suitable. I’ve now hung four bird feed balls on the terrace, and just in case this doesn’t catch the fancy of the tits I have also placed one in a candle holder so it can remind them of the candle wax they seem to enjoy.

This is undeniably bird food

Meanwhile, the candles have been moved inside and out of reach of the tits. I do hope they will continue to come play on the covered terrace, even though I’ve removed the candles…

(Oh, and the terrace is also a popular playground for a small wren that likes to jump around on the furniture and climb in the clematis vines…)

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