The Gar­den Birder

Any plans to re­model Clare’s gar­den are put on hold so na­ture can take over and pro­tect the wildlife within it

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

How your gar­den can help na­ture dur­ing the au­tumn months

Sum­mer sucks when you’re as pale as me. Au­tumn, how­ever, is joy­ful – wrap­ping up in itchy jumpers (the dis­com­fort is sim­ply a con­ces­sion to style), pack­ing flasks of tea in ruck­sacks, rolling around in leaves that match my hair – I am born again! A month on, I’m more set­tled in my new home. I’ve even found a lo­cal dog to walk. We spot young Pheas­ants scrab­bling un­der gorse and hawks cir­cling over­head look­ing for a field mouse sand­wich. In the gar­den, the wind has shaken most of the ap­ples to the floor and in the conifers, the spar­rows hide from the black-and-white cat. I dis­like conifers, they are not pretty, but for small gar­den birds, they pro­vide a dense, dark nest­ing spot, so if you’ve got any in your gar­den, check be­fore you trim as some strag­glers can still re­main. We’ve had a Fox visit. He took some pants off the line and tossed them in the mid­dle of the lawn. I hope it was him at least! And there’s def­i­nitely a Hedge­hog snuf­fling in a wild cor­ner of the gar­den. Soon, he will re­tire for the type of epic sleep we hu­mans can only dream of. In the front gar­den, I’ve been keep­ing a close eye on a Black­bird who ap­pears to be a lit­tle bald­ing. At this stage, it’s un­clear what has hap­pened to him, but I make sure I leave a lit­tle ex­tra food out for him. He likes to kick the wood­chip up by the front door. At first I thought it was the cat but, on closer ob­ser­va­tion, I saw him there search­ing for worms and I felt that, per­haps, while wood chip­pings keep the beds tidy, they aren’t great for birds. Our co-ex­is­tence may for­ever be a source of com­pro­mise and, per­haps, that’s the way it should be. At the week­end, I’ll turn over the soil in one of the beds and time how long it takes for the Robin to ap­pear. I es­ti­mate about five min­utes. The thrill of hav­ing one perch close to you while you fork over the earth is al­ways a re­minder of the beau­ti­ful re­la­tion­ship we can only have with gar­den birds, and it’s one we should never take for granted. He is one of the only birds that sing, dur­ing the win­ter and is the one most likely to land on your hand. This has never hap­pened to me and I’d like it to – maybe you think that silly but I’d love to know what his lit­tle feet would feel like on my palm, whether they’d be sharp or

soft. Alas, I’m not a still per­son, so the chances of him mis­tak­ing me as a statue are slim. If you’re a se­ri­ous birder, you’ll likely be tut­ting now, but I can’t hear you from here. The Red Kite has been cir­cling above the gar­den again. I’d like to take a closer look but I’m yet to find a pair of binoc­u­lars (Christ­mas is com­ing, take note). Where do we stand on us­ing binoc­u­lars in the gar­den? I’m in a semi-ru­ral lo­ca­tion but I have neigh­bours – I know I seem posh, so this may sur­prise you. What if they think I’m try­ing to forgo my TV li­cence and watch their box in­stead, or worse? Tell me the rules, please. While we are at it, is full camo in the gar­den a no-no lest I be mis­taken for a lost army cadet? How about a hide? I could charge my new neigh­bours ad­mis­sion – a kind of pay-per-view ar­range­ment. I think I could get car­ried away here. Be­ing in a new house means every day of­fers the po­ten­tial for dis­cov­ery, and as such, I’m very much watch­ing the birds to see how the ground lies. It’s tempt­ing to re­model the gar­den, but I’m aware that I don’t want to dis­rupt the nat­u­ral flow of life here, the in­fra­struc­ture of this bird world, and so I will watch and wait. Au­tumn is the time to let na­ture take over, it’s time to slow down. As the leaves drop, you’ll see your own gar­den in a new light.

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