About 10 years ago I was given a terracotta ‘bird ball’ as a birthday present. Over the years it has been hung in several shady positions around the garden. We have seen blue tits give is a cursory once-over in April. It’s been ‘perch on the top, head through the door, quick discussion, fly off never to return’. This year it was different: late April interest and preliminary inspections, followed by moving in, furnishing, egg-laying, incubating, hatching, frantic activity, tiny squeaks and cheeps… then we went away for four days. Bad timing – we had missed the main event.
The nest is now empty, the occupants all flown. With some difficulty, I managed to get a shot of the little nest made of dry grass and moss. The birds left the nest very tidy, with just a single tiny thank-you feather left behind…
In the leafy inner ‘burbs of the big city, fewer than 5 miles from Hyde Park Corner, foxes are now commonplace. No longer are they lone scavengers skulking down the road at dawn and dusk and lying low during the day. Now they treat gardens as their own, fences as their walkways, and flowerbeds as their… well, let’s not go there.
We generally see foxes several times a week, singly or a pair sauntering down the street, in transit along the fences, or resting in the sun at the end of our garden.
They are not particularly bothered by us unless we make a noise. At this time of year, their nocturnal yowling can be astonishingly loud – a reminder that these are wild creatures that have made themselves at home in the city – and indeed in our garden – for their mating rituals.
We were abroad for a couple of weeks last month. The day we got back, this fine fox was in our garden. These photos were all taken through the kitchen window. The fox knew perfectly well that I was there, but I couldn’t risk the noise of opening the French windows into the garden for a clear shot.
While we were away, a child from a neighbouring garden must have thrown or hit a ball over the fence. The fox had it by him. I watched for at least 20 minutes as he played with it, patted it, chewed it, chucked it in the air, and rolled over on his back pushing it through the grass with his nose with all 4 legs in the air. He behaved in fact just like a dog. A dog fox.
By coincidence, an article about urban foxes (and fox merchandise) was published in the Guardian online yesterday. It’s a good read, and contains the fact – which I did not know – that foxes are one of the few species that will hold eye contact with a human. You can read the article HERE.
The ring-necked parakeet (rose-ringed parakeet) Psittacula krameri
These pretty, noisy, gregarious birds, originating from the Indian subcontinent and (as a subspecies) the central Africa belt, are survivors and prolific breeders. Feral colonies, often expanding from a handful of escapees or released birds, are now found in many regions throughout the world. They are very adaptable, and populations spread rapidly. There are many thousands of them in south-east England, from the very heart of London to the outer reaches of the Home Counties to the south and west.
It comes as a surprise to learn that the UK population has only become established in the last 60 years or so. Some colonies are several thousand strong. We have a smallish colony in our part of west London. I can only imagine the noise (and mess…) emanating from a huge population of many hundreds as they swarm in to roost at night.
We get the parakeets passing through our garden most days, mainly in small groups of about half-a-dozen. After pausing to make the most of any filled bird feeders – from which they swing upside down – they head to the park at the top of the road, where they roost. That’s where I took these photos a couple of days ago.
We get pleasure from these green exotics, with their long tails and beady eyes. Elsewhere, they have undoubtedly become a nuisance. In places there are far, far too many of them and there is talk of culling. I don’t think anyone suggests complete removal; and by now it’s probably too late for eradication. But I do see that there is need for control where populations are out of control and breeding exponentially. I hope ours will stay around. I also hope the numbers stay much as they are now.