Sunday, 24 April 2016

Notes from an urban countryman


Today's domestics involve planting two pots of Stock flower seeds either side of the Night Scented Stock which was sewn last week. That way, we should get scent through the kitchen window, day and night.

I did hear once that Night Scented Stock designed itself to be pollenated by moths, but I am not sure this is true. This is a little ironic, because I have just rigged up a load of pheromone traps for the dreaded clothes moths, from which we suffer quite badly in this house - H.I. loves cashmere, and I hate doing the laundry.

These traps only attract male moths, but it is the female's offspring (in worm form) which does the damage. The idea is that the trapping of the males puts a dent in the population in general, which is better than nothing. As soon as I had unpeeled the backing from the sticky paper, a moth appeared out of nowhere in broad daylight, so I am guessing it was a male. One down, 3000 to go.

The other little chore this morning was to wipe a great white splurge of gull-shit from the outside of our bathroom window.

It is the breeding season - for everything - and the gulls are back in town, fighting over territory as they treat the rooftops as clifftops. Shitting on each other - and us humans - is just another way of making our lives difficult. H.I. got shat on yesterday. I once saw a Japanese tourist get shat on by a gull, and it really looked as though someone had tipped a bucket of white-wash over his head. He was remarkably sanguine about it, just quietly saying, "Oh..."

You would think that the seasonal orgy of sex, birth and violence would pass you by in town, but all we get is the worst bits of it. We do have blackbirds all year round, which is nice. They warble to each other across the river at night, Winter and Summer. This is so much better than the gulls swearing at each other, beginning at midnight, reaching a peak around 4.00 am, then quieting down after you have got up - when you really need to sleep.

I miss the thousands of Starlings which used to roost at night, after they had swarmed overhead in the great, black clouds of their nightly murmuration.

The feral pigeons breed all year round, just so long as they have a food source, and with the amount of late-night take-aways in towns, they always have a food-source. They especially like eating the vomit from the pavements on Sunday mornings. Feral pigeons are the direct descendants of cliff-dwelling, coastal Rock Pigeons.

For the last two years, there has been a massive influx of proper Wood Pigeons. Prior to then, you never saw them in town. We also have quite a number of Collared Doves. Only about twenty-five years ago, Collared Doves did not exist in England. Another success story.

A pair of Red Kites have been spotted on the outskirts of Bath, so it will not be long before we may have as many as Reading, which has them in medieval quantities. They were released as a breeding pair in Oxfordshire by Paul Getty, and have been creeping further South for the last 15 years.

Buzzards circle overhead quite regularly, upsetting the gulls, and of course we have the breeding pair of Peregrine Falcons on the Catholic church, which don't seem to have any effect on the feral pigeon population.

I was speaking to the man who runs the camera for the Peregrines on the church last year, and he told me that they caught - on film - one of the Falcons coming home - at night - with a Moorhen.

I knew that Peregrines will sometimes swoop down on prey on the river - I witnessed one of the Norwich birds arrive on the nest with a duckling last year - but I didn't think they did this at night. It turns out that they don't.

Here was something else I learned. Have you ever seen a Moorhen in flight? I mean real flight, not just flapping along six inches above the water in a burst of speed?

You probably haven't, because Moorhens only fly in the dark, which was how this one was caught mid-air by the Peregrine. Somehow, I had always thought of them as flightless.

And then of course there are the house-flies. It was so warm last year that they never properly disappeared. I am expecting a bumper crop this year.

http://upp.hawkandowl.org/bath-peregrines/bath-st-johns-church-peregrine-live-web-cam-2016/

30 comments:

  1. Damn those Gettys.
    Re: moths and flies - I have read that window screens aren't used much in the UK - is that true?

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    1. Traditionally, we have never used them, but I really appreciate them in warmer countries against mosquitos. The little cloths moths are very furtive and devious. They are brilliant at hiding the can be flitting about in clear view one second, then vanish the next. You have to be very quick.

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  2. You need a house cat. Mine, at least, clears the house of every fly and moth he encounters. But if there are no screens....?

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    1. Re screens, I don't think they would stop cloths moths, although I have never tried. Cloths moths are really meant to inhabit bird's nests once the chicks have gone, so are usually associated with late Summer/Autumn. They are pretty much all year round in houses now. Your cat would have a difficult job getting more than a few, I think. It would have to work all night and dig them out of their hiding places.

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  3. Ah, that reminds me, The Durrells is on tonight. Thank you.

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    1. We have a conflict. H.I. wants to see the last episode of Undercover on the box, and I want to hear the broadcast of Shakespeare's death on Radio 3. I have promised Mr Warburton that I will listen to it live, and either can be found again on catch-up.

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    2. P.S. I see the sun has finally come out in Norwich.

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    3. On and off. It has been hailing most of the day.

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    4. The death throes of William Shakespeare, hear them on the radio tonight.

      Did he make a lot of noise when he died?

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  4. Tom, thank you for all this nature information and for the link to the peregrines. I will have to take another look at differing times of day.

    From my time spent managing retail clothing shops, I know a bit about trying to break the reproductive cycle of the webbed clothing moth. Cashmere is irresistible.

    Best wishes to you in all your endeavors.

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    1. H.I.'s daughter manages a cashmere stop - in this very street - but they do not have a problem with moths. The moths only go for dirty clothes, I think, and I have an abundance of those.

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  5. I enjoyed today's post.....it was chatty

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    1. I tried to be a combination of Jack Hargreaves and you.

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  6. Italians say it is good luck to step on a dog's poo. I am wondering now if it can be considered even greater luck when a huge quantity drops from above onto heads?
    I love listening to blackbirds singing. We have a couple of blackbirds that perch in a mimosa tree in the garden below. I think they're out on a mission to tease the next door neighbour's cat, which is always dangerously perched on a balcony wall and looking down at them.
    The link to the peregrines has me "hooked", thanks to you :-)
    A very nice post Tom, as are all your posts.
    Greetings Maria x.

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    1. Thank you Maria. It is always the male Blackbirds talking to each other. If you stand right in between them, you can - after a while - begin to think that you can almost understand them.

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    2. It is considered to be very lucky to get a bird dropping on you in this country Maria. At least in Norfolk it is.

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    3. As I understand, it is considered lucky if a human shits on you in Norfolk.

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    4. Well in Somerset it is, anyway.

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  7. I think "oh" translated from Japanese means " that f---ing great bird just shit on my head." Perhaps you should purchase several dozen geckos from your local pet shop and turn them out in your home?

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    1. Moths, flies and a variety of other insects

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    2. More mouths to feed. Fuck that.

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  8. I think there are greater concentrations of these things in towns Tom - out here in the countryside there is more open space. Nice starling photo.

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    1. We get no starlings at all anymore. They have diminished greatly on the Somerset Levels as well. Ironically, some parts of the South Coast are short of gulls. They can have some of ours if they want...

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  9. Peregrins!!
    What a lovely view they are!!
    I do understand what you mean about birds is the city. We live in a small village, but in the bigger towns around us wars are being fought between birdlovers and notsofonders. There has been everything from shooting to distributing poisonous mice to the peregrins. The most common birds around here are jackdaws, they are absolutely everywhere, magpies and gulls. Every year the gulls invade the roof of the parishhomes roof. Every year they make nests, lay eggs and produce a large number of grey furballs that falls out of the shallow nests. When they do, they wobble around among us, making the parents furious at....us..and there goes the alarm!!! Those are the weeks we all walk with helmets on!!

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    1. The garden is full of starlings, lovely creatures!!

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