Urban Wildlife Garden - February 2018

It’s February and the garden is feeling pretty sorry for itself. Those bright, optimistic blooms of summer have now been deformed by winter’s icy fingers and hang in limp clumps of tarnished brown leaves. I didn’t put the geraniums away in the frost proof shelter this year mainly because the protective plastic cover is lost somewhere in the loft. To give them credit, the geraniums have attempted to bloom throughout the winter months and given just a glimpse of sunshine would soon push out new buds and leaves. These guys are ready to go. Better than last year when I brought them all out of their snug little shelter only to find that every one of them had died (of boredom).

The bulbs which have survived repeated squirrel inspection have signalled the arrival of spring with a show of snowdrops from mid-January.

I love the way that nature persists in the face of adversity which is a lesson to us all. Spring cannot come a moment too soon for me, tired as I am of winter. I had that cough/cold bug in January. The one which puts you in bed for four days with a nose so blocked you need to put straws in your ears to breath. I’m ready now, just as the garden is ready to shake off the dull winter greys and bloom again. Let us hope that March does not have a trick up her sleeve and bring in the snow we have to date avoided.

The garden critters appear to be thriving. I read in the RSPB magazine that there is a national decline in starlings but clearly they have not been monitoring the daily squabble who line up on the branches of my tree for their morning meal worm. It will soon be time for them to build their nests and introduce a whole new generation to the fast food fly-by restaurant in East Molesey.

Although I put out the food most mornings there is something about food stolen which makes it all the more appealing. The chips you take from your partner’s plate always taste better than your own and as we know stolen food has no calories. There is a rather cheeky squirrel that gets into my shed so he can go rummaging through the fat ball box. I guess if he manages to get through the cardboard and the plastic covering he can take the whole thing away for a private feast. Also, the mice in the shed have been gradually nibbling away at the plastic lids on the seed boxes. Not happy to eat the seed which invariably get spilled on the floor they want to climb into the box for an orgy of gluttony among the sunflower hearts. The only problem with their plan is that they don’t appear to have an exit route. None of them have thought to weave together a little ladder so they can get both in and out of the seed box. Once they manage to find their way in I’ll know about it as they will all be playing sleeping lions when I open the lid in the morning hoping not to be noticed. Once I’ve got them all out I’ll have to tape up the hole in the lid and the whole game begins again.

I know that the slugs have been active over the winter months as I have found them unable to return home before morning and dried out by the daylight. There is a small corner by the bench which appears to be a kind of killing zone for slugs. First one, then another lying dead with no obvious signs of trauma. As if new victims are stopping to rubber neck a third is then found lying close to the dried up corpses. I started wondering if some kind of toxic substance was on the ground here. I did apply some wood oil to the bench in November which may have spilled onto the paving slabs. Without a full autopsy the truth will never be known.

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