Category Archives: wildlife encounters

Garden bird encounters in early 2013

It’s a while since I reported on any of the wildlife encounters around the garden, other than the mention in my last book about what I could see from my hospital window, so a few words on recent fun in the back garden are overdue. Continue reading


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Thoughts on Polar Bear encounters and respect for the environment

It is sad to hear of the loss of a young man in the frozen wastes, and also of the loss of one of the world’s deadly predators, a polar bear. Both were out on paths that brought them together in a way that led to two deaths, and some injuries for others.

To go to somewhere like where the Eton party ventured is dangerous, and that is what makes it attractive. Where there is danger someone might die or get hurt, but no-one expects that it will be them. It is always somebody though, and if you are there then it might be you.

It is a shame that the boys and the bear had to meet, but I do hope that this encounter does not stop the opportunities for people to do dangerous things. They are worthwhile doing; risk is what takes us forward as a species, and to eliminate all risk will kill us off as a race sooner rather than later. As individuals we are all going to die anyway, it is just a question of when. Is it better to stay safe and then die as your organs fail through age or disease, or to die having an adventure?

I can’t answer that question for you, but I would much rather go to my end experiencing something than to just rot away.

As for the bear, well that was just out foraging, doing what it had to.  It didn’t have a lot of choice, and when aromas drew it to the boy’s camp there was going to be a tragic outcome of some sorts.

In amongst the good stuff talked about preserving our environment there is a lot of twaddle spouted, and one of the things that some rampant wannabee greens lose sight of is that we are only one species on this planet. The other species are just as important as the ozone layer, fossil fuels, emmision levels and climate change. I am fairly outspoken against a lot of elf & safety (see above), but one risk assessment I am supportive of is on the environmental consequences of what we do.

Yes I am in favour of people taking risk and doing dangerous things, but only in terms of personal risk. If you are in a group and agree to take group riskd that is fine, but when it comes to doing things that put other things that have no choice about joining in at risk then no: If you are up a mountain don’t risk an avalanche, if you are in the forest don’t set the place on fire, if you are poking your nose in where there are creatures that might kill you…..

Our environment is now short of one bear and one human and I don’t think that that was necessary.

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wiltshire wildlife june 2011

The local Sparrow and Starling youngsters are going through 5 or 6 fat balls a day at the moment. The Starlings are just starting to show signs of transition from juvenile feathers to the adult plumage and are feeding themselves, but the Sparrow young still, mostly, need to be fed.

Despite reports of a decline in Sparrows in recent years we have a good crop and can often have as many as 20 flitting around with their complex air traffic control stacking them for a turn on the feeder.

Fortunately we’ve had no sightings of the larger birds of prey that turned up towards the end of last year, but the Pigeons, Gulls and Crows still have spats amongst themselves, uniting against the Magpies and the Heron.

Samantha Squirrel was last seen in August and so we think that she has gone to that drey in the sky. She would have been at least 6 and had been through some hard times. A strange thing though; it was four summers ago that she moved herself and her two babies into our loft and we had to evict them in fear that they would chew up wiring with the attendant risks to them and us. Twice in the last few months an adult squirrel has come down our path, run unerringly up the cherry tree to the corner of the house where Samantha made an entry, looked around and then run back down the tree and left, ignoring the adjacent bird feeder. Could this have been one (or  both) of Samantha’s offspring, following some memory of a previous home? Maybe I’m just being wishful, but why would a squirrel just turn up, check that location and leave?

This is the fourth year that we have not had a fox take up temporary residence under our deck. Having been a regular maternity ward for several years we had enjoyed the spectacle of the youngsters play fighting in the afternoon sun, even if we did not like some of their, shall we say, personal habits.


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friday fun in the sun

Well it is a beautiful morning (no I’m not about to burst into a selection from Oklahoma!) and I am having a few moments in front of the laptop checking emails, blogging and passing the time until I have to capture a pair of moggies and take them off to the vets for the annual jabs.

All of a sudden here in Jottings I have got all political again. After GE2010 I promised myself that I would leave the soap box in the shed for a while, but the Yes2av campaign crept up on me and had got the juices flowing in opposition, so apologies to my regular readers who prefer my more whimsical offerings, but there will be a steady stream of no2av campagning for the next few weeks.

I will try to add more of my usual scibblings to water things down though, so please bear with me if you find the politics boring.

So, time to drink my tea and turn into Hunter John and track down the cats. This posting will be filed amongst Wildlife Encounters; they may me domestic animals, but somehow they know that a trip in the cage is coming and are already plotting against me. I shall return later to dress my own wounds and with a lighter wallet.

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wiltshire wildlife encounters – a death in the forenoon

Our flock of starlings is starting to recover. 18 months ago one of our neighbours grubbed up the patch of shrubs and brambles where several hundred would roost at night. Presumably they found somewhere else to rest and we saw very little of their spectacular pre-bedtime aerobatics, and things were quieter, last year.

This year they have been more prevalent again, but yesterday morning one fell victim to a sparrowhawk who, having stunned its prey, managed to catch it almost outside the bedroom office window, almost colliding with the house and having to land and re-group. Its mate arrived seconds later and looked on before they both went off the devour their catch.

With the prevalence of kites and common buzzards along the highways we frequent, having now had a peregrine and an pair of sparrow hawks in our urban garden it is almost like my childhood days in the country for birds of prey.

I like all sorts of the wildlife that surrounds us, but starlings are one of my favourite birds with their irridescent colours, even if their behaviour is somewhat scandalous with all that noise and bickering. Sad to see what die so brutally in some ways, but it is a fact of life that there is a food chain in nature and that survival is all about competition.

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wiltshire wildlife encounters – the Falcon!

I was standing at the kitchen window admiring our flock of Sparrows. Allegedly in decline, but not for us this year; we have 25 – 30 at a time. Watching them flit around is a genuine pleasure for me and presents a peaceful moment or two to distract me from other tasks.

So there they were, and then they weren’t. Now I’m used to their disappearing act when something alerts them and they fly off en mass, but this time they dived low and into cover. Before I could ponder this too much a grey shape flew in from behind the cherry tree to land atop one of my bean-pole wigwams. Oh, it’s a pigeon that’s spooked them I thought, but…

The arrival was a blue/grey colour, but a little taller and slimmer than our fat pigeons. A barred chest, and white markings on the head framing cold eyes and a hooked beak. Perched there with steely talons was a falcon. I thought first maybe a Sparrowhawk, but the colour was wrong; no it was a Peregrine.

It surveyed the garden for about 90 seconds, sat tall on its perch, then took flight at high speed and roosted briefly in a neighbouring silver birch before flying off out of view.

I’ve not seen a Peregrine since I was about 13, and then only in flight. To have one barely 15 feet away was a rare privilege. I worry for my precious Sparrows with someone like that in the neighbourhood, but nature is nature and, as I’ve written here before, she can’t be controlled by the likes of us.

A special day.

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It’s a wet day in Swindon – Wildlife Report

The day started dull, but the sun came out for a while around 0900 for me to walk over to the newsagent and enquire where our paper had gone (school holidays – delivery tends to get a bit erratic).

Samantha Squirrell was round again for breakfast and is hopefully snug back in her drey now. The sparrows were fairly swarming. Whatever the decline may be we are certainly not seeing it in our garden. There are usually at least 9, and sometimes 12+ (it gets hard to be sure becuase by the time you’ve counted to 12 they’re all on the move again). The starlings have also be in with the juveniles starting to get their adult plumage.

All of the birds seem to be on their second broods of the season and this new batch are just about staring to feed themselves. The magpies are also doing well again and there were well into double figures around by the footbridge as I walked to the shop. Not being supersticious I don’t salute them (or count them too closely).

My efforts at thwarting the pigeons seem to have worked for now and they are spending a lot of time sat in the cherry tree trying to work out how to get at the bird food. They’ll have to make do, like Samantha does, with what falls on the floor. At least I’ve given the smaller birds a better chance at getting their fair share.

We’ve not had a fox in residence for the second year running after being on the Good Earth guide for about 5 years. In their absence it rather looks as though the bees have taken up residence under the deck, so maybe I can reclaim the compost bin. I’ll have to cut the honeysuckle back to find it, so that can go on the autumn job list.

Anyway, that’s it for now as the sky has got a bit lighter and I can see what I’m doing with the decorating again. Time to go back to work.

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