Today, Saturday is the first day of my two weeks off in August. I took two weeks in June to visit my family in Scotland, so I’ve already had a little break. The last few weeks at work in between though means I’m keen to empty my head of work stuff and see this next few weeks as “recharging my battery” time.
What to do? Well, I cant afford to go anywhere so I shall be going to ‘Hameldaeme”. Scots for home will do me. That means my back garden. Not terribly exciting by comparison with my facebook chums who post photos of places exotic, photos of their food eaten by sunsets in Cornwall or Greece, but a peaceful haven nevertheless and it costs nothing.
To me though, being a “home bird”, my back garden is my refuge. I love to sit and just watch nature go by, my little dog at my feet asleep, his head resting on his much loved tennis ball, just thinking about when I next throw it, and not much else.
I’ve managed at last to get the birds to come to my garden, after being bereft of any birds since I moved here four years ago. Initially it was entirely gravelled over, an old lady lived here before and it was too much for her. Gradually over the last few years, I’ve discovered a vegetable plot covered with tarpaulin and gravel, now a bed for beetroot, garlic, chard, onions, and soon to have cabbages and sprouts. The side beds are now a mix of annuals and perennials and I’ve planted roses too, entertained by sweet peas that come up every year, festooned with colour and is much more of a cottage garden. Since I put in a wildlife pond, having taken up at least 16 large square slabs, I now have more butterflies and bees than I can count.
Still, very few birds arrived. I thought perhaps it was the presence of my old cat, Smudge, but his hunting days are over now that he is 17yrs and 11months, according to his vet records. He used to bring me gifts of field mice and frogs when I lived in “Midsomermarplesland” . Luton you’d think by comparison would be the opposite . Living with houses overlooking me as opposed to beautified countryside, where my neighbours were sheep and cows.I always say though, if you have a garden, all life will come to you.
So, I read up a bit on birds and how to get them to my garden, and the thing that did it, was my cutting down a very large “Photinia” tree, called “red robin”. The branches were so big I was just lazy and dumped them by the side of my garage, next to a compost heap. The pile is about six foot high and six foot wide. I thought that eventually it would rot down. This is adjacent to my garden pond and the ‘wildlife’ area I created where I sowed plants for butterflies and bees. It’s an untidy mess, but wildlife doesn’t care about aesthetics .
I purchased “proper “ seed, such as “Robin Crumble’, fat, seeds and mealy worms, as welll as a garden feeder mix to appeal to the ground feeder birds. Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago, when I saw the pile of photinia branches and leaves moving! At least 20 or so small birds were roosting there, checking the place to see if they were safe to descend and land nearby to get the food. It was rather like watching a waterfall of brown water flowing down against a red backdrop of rock.
I’ve since established that they are a mix of wrens, juvenile red robins, and blackbirds. The odd wood pigeon also visits, and amazingly rather than belt the little ones out of the way, just mingles amongst them, so they all get their fair share. It’s costing me a fair bit to buy the seed mixes, but the sheer delight I feel when I see them more than compensates. Even Doogle the dog, sits and observes rather than chase them away. It’s amazing how animals know when to leave other animals alone.
I now have a camera trained on the feed site and I’ve managed to film them bathing and splashing in the shallow end of the pond, in the water bath I made with a small plant saucer, and drinking water from an old shallow feeding bowl. They also feed under the conifers, next to my veg bed and seem to be more daring now.
They say that if you bring birds into your garden they will take care of the pests. Well, that’s true it seems. Next to the pond there is a fence. I noticed a few weeks ago that a multitude of snails had made the gap between two panels of wood their home. In my new outlook of leaving nature to itself, this morning I looked and could only see empty shells. So, did the birdies feast on a snail banquet or did the snails just move house? Who knows.
At least my beetroot, chard, and cabbages might be safe this year. Unless the birds dig up the seedlings.