Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Wee Tim'rous Beastie!

First of all belated Christmas greetings to all of you and very best wishes for the New Year. This post has taken much longer than I would have liked due to various problems. Obviously this is not the best time of year for anything to do with Nature photography and I have not been in the best of health recently, there are so many nasty viruses around at the moment and unfortunately I have succumbed to some of them as I usually do at this time of year. The biggest drawback regarding blogging and indeed photography at the moment though, is that I am waiting for laser surgery on my eyes due to difficulties caused by the side effects of long term medication for respiratory problems, therefore I find it a strain to use the computer at the moment and increasingly difficult to take photos :(

I have been very touched by all of you lovely blogland friends who sensed something was awry and have sent messages and emails with Christmas Greetings and enquiries as to my welfare recently. It is very, very kind of you all and much appreciated and I do hope to get round to thanking everyone personally eventually. I will try to post and comment as often as I can but hope you will bear with me until things hopefully return to some semblance of normality before too long.

Thankfully, so far, we have escaped the worst of the snow here although the sprinkling we did have in the week before Christmas quickly froze solid and turned the roads and paths into treacherous ice rinks! The garden has, of course, been very busy during the freezing weather with all the poor birds frantically trying to keep themselves fuelled against the bitter cold. I have had a large amount of Blackbirds visiting and they have been very aggressive with each other and also towards other species. There was a huge commotion a few days ago when one had another spreadeagled on the ground and was on top attacking and fiercely pecking it. The poor thing was screeching loudly, I banged on the window and all the other birds flew away apart from the two Blackbirds and I am convinced that, had I not run into the garden and shooed them away, the victim would have been killed! As I wasn't able to get a photograph I am including one I took some time ago.

Recently, just before the snow, your intrepid blogger risked life and limb in order to go on safari in the depths of the dark, damp and cold garden to hunt down the tiny mouse which has been observed feeding in the small mesh feeder within the Clematis ;) Night after night armed only with a torch and a camera and at considerable risk of being thought completely batty by any observers!! she stood in the pitch black dark with only the sound of the neighbour's washing machine humming on the night air for company!!!

It was very difficult to capture the little mouse in the dark but with a torch in one hand and camera in the other the following photos were the best that could be managed.

'Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie,
O, what a panic's in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee,
Wi' murdering pattle.'

'I'm truly sorry man's dominion
Has broken Nature's social union,
An' justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An' fellow mortal!'

'But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!'

'Still thou are blest, compared wi' me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e'e,
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!'
(Robert Burns)

What a pretty little creature it is! I think it is either a Yellow Necked Mouse or a Wood Mouse, probably the former but it is difficult to be sure. I was worried about damaging its eyes with the torchlight and it also became wary of me so after a few nights I decided to leave it in peace. I say it but in fact one night I saw two mice feeding which I suppose shouldn't be a great surprise! Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of them both together. I am happy to feed them in the garden but I have read that both species can enter houses in the Winter! I do hope that feeding them outside will keep them content and prevent any desire to enter the house where I confess they won't be quite so welcome!

The following photos of birds in the garden were taken in the last week or so, I am aware they are not very sharp but sometimes the light conditions weren't good and also I had to take all of them through glass.


I wonder if anyone else has noticed that the birds aren't eating the fat ball snacks. I found the ones I put out were not being eaten at all so I threw them away along with some I had bought at the same time but not used. I thought perhaps they were last years stock and had gone stale. I then bought some more and put them out and also some coconut halves filled with fat and seed. All of these have remained untouched despite the birds obviously being desperate for food in the icy weather. I have also noticed that one of the seed mixtures which I buy regularly looks different and is being totally ignored. I am wondering if the manufacturer is using inferior food in an attempt to cut costs. Personally I would rather pay a little extra and give the birds food which they like and which benefits them nutritionally.

This Starling briefly examined the fat balls but since then they have been ignored and in my experience Starlings usually eat just about anything!

Of course I couldn't do a post at this time of year without a photo of a Robin, this poor little thing was trying to find some water which wasn't frozen, as fast as we broke the ice in the bird bath it froze over again!

The only time I have ever seen a Pied Wagtail in my garden was back in February in the snow and in the last week, again in the snow. This time, as last, it was treated with great hostility by the Blackbirds but persisted and has visited for some days now, quite often just as it is getting dark. I wonder if it may be the same one which came last Winter.

'You have to believe in happiness,
Or happiness never comes ...
Ah, that's the reason a bird can sing -
On his darkest day he believes in Spring.'
(Douglas Malloch)

I was absolutely thrilled to be visited by a Redwing last week! I have never, ever seen one in the garden before.

It visited two days running and the following photos although still taken through glass and from a fair distance at least benefited from better light, a blue sky and my Winter flowering Cherry tree blossom!

Isn't it a beautiful bird?

'Flowers peep, trees bud, boughs tremble, rivers run !
The redwing saith, it is a glorious morn.'
(Ebenezer Elliott)

Well that is all for now and I will try to visit your lovely blogs when I can but hope you will understand if I am not as regular as usual. Enjoy the rest of your Christmas celebrations and have a wonderful, happy and healthy New Year.