Interactions with nature is a play of challenges and choices.
This squirrel presents me with the latest challenge in nature: burying food in my oak sapling pots.
My good friend Paul of Learning for Dogs reblogs a post about my oak saplings; whilst reading that post, I catch sight of the local squirrel outside the window heading for my oak saplings to bury its nuts in the pots.
The squirrel is the latest challenge from nature, one that raises fear in me that my oak saplings will suffer harm from the squirrel’s activities. I have stopped feeding the wild animals, because food is now abundant in these warm days, the last of the food, including nuts, I offer to the wild animals so it is not wasted. The squirrel is using the food offered to it, burying the food in my oak sapling pots.
My initial choice is to recycle the nuts into the food waste, but the landlord of the property prevents me as they need to clean out the food waste bin. I make the choice to wait, do nothing, let things flow for the moment.
The cat sees me at the window and meows. Another challenge. An invite to come into the garden with her. Another choice.
I welcome my first wild tenants to a nesting box.
Home Sweet Home, blue tits have moved into their new home in my garden to raise their young.
I have decided to move into the real estate business letting out nesting boxes to wild birds in my garden. My first customers moved in to their new home in the last few days.
I encountered birds nesting in metal boxes designed for smokers to dispose of their used cigarettes last year, which prompted me to supply nesting boxes in my garden as healthier places to nest for wild birds.
I miss my garden fox Amber, who last year spent many days sleeping in my garden in the sun. My new visitors taking up residence are a pair of blue tits, who are currently building their nest in the nesting box, situated in an apple tree. The nesting box cost me less than $5 to buy, something rough and natural, so I purchased three for my avian tenants.
Having wild animals living in a garden can provide hidden benefits for the gardener. The blue tits can have anything as high as sixteen young in a nest, each requiring 100 caterpillars a day for food (or 1600 caterpillars a day for 16 young), which would significantly reduce any caterpillar problem in a garden. Rather than use chemicals, a family of blue tits can offer a sustainable natural solution to a caterpillar infestation problem.
Each individual can make a small difference helping wildlife.
I hope Amber my garden fox will return to my garden in 2015.
The British climate after the New Year grew teeth with hard frosts and a climate that sent my mood crashing into the hard ground. As I eat breakfast I visit the places I planted spring bulbs in my garden, a mood of anticipation like a child waiting for sweets. I watch the slowly emerging green shoots with near religious fervor, wishing, nay praying, their flowering would drive the cold jagged beast of winter away.
The foxes every night emerge with noisy announcements, fighting and marking out their territories whilst pursuing a mate. One fox includes my garden in its large territory, then circles its kingdom of many gardens with its vocal calls from sunset to deep into the night. I have seen the fox, but it is too dark to see if this is Amber, a fox I have not seen for many months.
The wild birds have returned to the garden, fighting for food, they are hungry. The time of winter through to the end of the nesting season in June is a time when wild birds in the UK need the help of humans for food. Regardless of where one lives, with wisdom, the little creatures appreciate the kindness, so food is always available in the feeding stations; I replace fresh water or break the ice of the water bowls to help birds so they can wash and drink from them.
Today I purchased a nest box which I shall soon put up. Human development rarely acts in harmony with nature so that yearly the potential nesting sites grow less for wild birds forcing them to nest in such areas as the metal ashtrays of the communal flats in Colchester. Birds appreciate nesting boxes if located with wisdom away from predatory interference.
Small acts of kindness for the wild animals in our gardens and community takes little effort but has a huge impact on the lives of the animals that benefit. It is worth thinking how you could help an animal and impact their little lives in a positive big way.
Connect with nature in a tent.
Nature is ready to meet and play with adventurous campers.
I write this in a thunderstorm in a tent. I feel secure as the wind seeks to send me off like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. The rain beats its drum upon the tent canvas, as the beast roars its war cry in flashes of white across the heavens.
It is hot. My relief from the heat is this tent, many times cooler than the poor people living in their over-warm houses tonight. It was so warm I worked in the garden this evening. There were large orange “Day Lilies” nearby making me nervous, they close their flowers at night making sudden jerky noises, but I fail to catch their movements, just their quivering in the still air. My imagination runs wild, they will pull me in amongst them and eat me.
The times I camped in winter I find it is easier to warm this tent, and stay warm, than the larger space of a room, or an entire house.
Camping in nature comes with certain expectations. You will be sharing your space with the local wildlife. I get used to the spiders, ants, beetles that take up residence, the spiders even have built nests in this tent for their babies. I occasionally leave the tent in place so long some plants grow along the guy ropes. Be prepared for visits from the local animals, which recently for me included foxes, frogs and hedgehogs; they all are curious and like to share your home comforts. Also, expect surprises, nature is playful: foxes chewed through my guy ropes one night so that the tent fell down on me in a rain storm; a falling tree could have crushed me last year; I woke in flood water a month ago; I have a regular sport chasing out various creatures; I suffer from collisions from passing, mating or fighting animals. Just now, in the rain, frogs are hopping on and around the tent.
Camping has helped me connect with nature, you cannot help but learn the harsh and beautiful faces that nature presents. Unusual and unique adventures await the camper. It is a beautiful experience to wake up as the first bird sings the new day in, followed by others into a full dawn chorus.
Sharing with nature.
Blackbird in song.
Each morning in the last week I start the day writing a blog post that appears one or two days ahead, it is Sunday. I sit as the cat Pebbles washes herself in another seat, I think I shall put names on the seats: “Alex’s seat”; “Pebbles seat.” Pebbles is now enraptured with a plump pigeon walking around outside the window, her ideal breakfast.
I no longer cook, something I have not done for over four months since the fried puffball I foraged by a river. The morning breakfast consisted of sardines, milk, digestives and a Scottish drink called Irn-bru.
I usually crumble one digestive and scatter it on the grass in the garden, an offering to the birds. This morning there appeared in the trees both a female and male blackbird who took an interest in the digestive I had scattered upon the grass. There were other blackbirds on a shed roof behind conifers, at least two young fledglings that the parent blackbirds were feeding, taking bits of biscuit to them. I scattered more digestives upon the ground, so sharing breakfast with a family of blackbirds until they were no longer hungry, vanishing to their home nearby.
After two years of hunting I catch a fox with my camera.
After two years of frustration I finally photograph a fox, which appeared out of nowhere in my garden.
Nature is a shifting tapestry of life, often catching me by surprise with magical manifestations of wildlife that abruptly vanish before I can catch a brief record of its passing through my life. It is a matter of chance that I get lucky with my camera, and I was in luck today.
This morning a fox manifested in my garden. The fox sat looking at me, it had a forlorn look about it, but the fox was content to sit and watch me as it sun bathed in the warmth of a tranquil garden. I had my camera with me, so I made up for two years of frustration by firing off dozens of photographs of my elusive wary model. The fox made my day.
Give animals what they need and they will come visiting.
Offer wildlife what they need and they will come visiting as this blue tit did in my garden.
It is deep winter in England, and I am happy to see a major trend where anyone with access to a tree or garden hangs out food for birds. Retail stores at Christmas devote shelves in addition to Christmas junk a vast array of equipment and food for feeding wild garden birds. In human population areas the garden birds thrive in winter thanks to large quantities of food put out for them.
In the garden of my home a large bird feeding station offers a variety of food for birds, and they come offering plenty of opportunities for my photography. Because the cats also enjoy the visual eye candy the birds offer, they are vigilant and it proves challenging at the moment to get clear good photos of the birds, especially the blue tits.
If you can attract animals to your home area then it offers a great opportunity to connect with nature. Offer food, shelter and anything else an animal needs to survive and it will come, offering you many wonderful experiences with nature. I envy the home in Brightlingsea earlier this year that attracted a black bird to raise young in a nest in a hedge next to the front door.
Plant the right flowers, the bees will come; install nesting boxes and the birds will nest there; leave food out and the birds will become regular visitors. In the small urban garden I live at I have encountered foxes, hedgehogs, all kinds of birds, and I shared peanuts with a squirrel that came visiting this morning. Leave parts of a garden wild and it offers opportunities for animals to make their home there. Living close to animals makes life brighter and helps connect with nature.