Clare on the downsides of summer and the joys of having a Cormorant as a neighbour...
It’s still light – and warm enough to sit outside on a blanket and look down to the river. The rather un-british heat has come as a shock to us all I think, and while it has its advantages, there’s a lot of downsides to it as well. Take the river, normally so clear. It’s now pea-soup green, like Shrek has been pureed. The birds don’t seem too impressed and the swans look highly irritated having to wade through the swamp to get out onto the bank. You could argue they always look angry, but I’ve hung around with them long enough to know when they are really cross and the illuminous green clings to their feathers. And its name? Duckweed. It’s full of protein and while some birds may eat it, it actually carpets the river so much it starves the wildlife below of oxygen and sunlight, making it rather troublesome indeed. There’s the issue of litter getting caught in it, too. Up river from me is The Meadows, where people love to congregate in the summer eating bags of chips and drinking beer. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Some people, however, are total morons who think throwing litter is a good idea and this is now getting caught in the weed. Right now, as I write this, I am looking straight at what could be a bottle of Stella or Becks. A few months back, a fully-inflated paddling pool sailed past the bottom of my garden. There was no one in it. I tried to get to it but failed. I tweeted a photo of it to the local river trust and it was sorted out after a rather entertaining exchange. Aside from thirsty birds, there’s been a very hungoverlooking Hedgehog whom I’ve had to pick up carefully, and put in a crate with a saucer of water. It’s extremely cute watching him take sips of it and when he’s done, I pick him up and he’s ready to take on life – Hedgehog style. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t intervene, but sometimes even the most independent of species need a little help and, with many of our native animals under threat, we have a responsibility to look after them as best we can. Thankfully, most of the wildlife in the garden seems to be coping well enough with the heat. The smaller birds bathe in the old tin bath and the pigeon appears to drink it all. The resident Cormorant seems to be doing very well, indeed. I know I’m really lucky to be able to see him
nearly every day. If you think swans look cross, you should see him. I wasn’t intending to tell you about him this month, but as I started writing, I heard a big splosh and went to investigate. It was the Cormorant and I decided it was a sign. So, what can I tell you about him? I’ve never seen any young and when I first saw him, I thought someone was about to die. Maybe that sounds harsh but they are quite sinister looking and could easily be an extra in Jurassic Park if they needed the extra cash. Some fishermen hate them because they are so good at fishing. Allow me to say this, dear fishermen a) the cormorant was there long before you appeared, and you’re in his backyard, not the other way round and b) are you going to eat the fish you catch? No? Well, leave it for him. Other fishermen enjoy the sight of this reptilian creature with prehistoric features as it’s a clear indication that plentiful fish stocks are close at hand. As with all these scenarios, there’s a delicate balance but it’s perfectly possible for us to play together nicely. Watching the Cormorant disappear under the water is thrilling. And then you wait. Hold your breath and count – you could be waiting 60 seconds for him to appear again. When he’s finished dining, he will often stand perfectly still with wings half fanned out staring before taking to the sky, flying as straight as a dart, heading for a bullseye. Always on target, these birds are smart and dynamic and so long as you’re not a selfish fisherman, you’ve every reason to love them.
Clare ponders on the ‘pea-soup green’ river near her garden
As well as garden birds, Clare has also helped out a Hedgehog
Although a protein-source for birds, Duckweed is bad for other wildlife