Tag Archives: commensal

Tidying up and Tuning Up

Autumn,and time to start tidying the vegetable patch at Mrs O’s garden, harvesting beans in the process.

The goldfinches were active and noisy in nearby gardens, but hidden in the conifer next door there was a blackbird, singing under his breath a long, complex song; not, to my uneducated ears, the song of a novice. I look forward to hearing more from him as winter progresses.

I was reminded of another blackbird who lived maybe 25 years ago in a garden I maintained in town, behind a lawyers’ office. His subsong included a ‘warbler’ phone ringing tone, but he never, in my hearing, used this in his full song. A starling would not have been so conservative; we had a very accurate phone mimic a couple of years ago. More than once Mrs T or I have got up from tea in the garden – and realised it was the starling.

Tidying the planting troughs in our own garden showed why our canine visitor Melba was interested in the corner where they stand. When the bedding petunias were removed there were small heaps of grain husks, suggesting that Mrs Turnstone’s woodmouse friend had been raiding pet food supplies and bringing grain there to enjoy under cover. Melba clearly knew about this well before we did.

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Mice – with and without wings

The parent blue tits (or titmice) are very busy, right outside the kitchen window, ferrying many insect morsels to their brood. Mrs Turnstone, great provider as she is, appreciates their devotion.

A woodmouse appeared, scurrying across the garden path at 3.30 p.m; what crumbs did she discover under the garden table?

Finally, a flittermouse, a pipistrelle bat, flew across the front of the house, picking up flying insects that had eluded the blue tits.

I trust Mrs Tittlemouse is as well housed as usual since I saw two foxes going about their business the other night; one peeled off to the left of our house, its mate went to investigate the remains of the student party to our right.

Mrs Turnstone sees their presence as a clinching argument against rescuing a couple of battery hens!

Woodmice like to share

Mrs Turnstone has been using the garden shed as a cold store. It works well for celery, swedes, cheese in tins, beer, wines and spirits. But:

‘I’m afraid the Mouse has been helping herself to the pizza. I suppose I’ll leave it out there for her now.  I was going to serve it tonight’.

I’ll set the trap then’.

‘NO You Won’t!’

Singing and Scavenging for Supper

They were both seeking attention, each in his own way singing for his supper and disturbing the peace. First of all we heard the guitarist, plucking a Spanish concerto from his strings, playing against one of those recordings without the soloist, the over-amplified sound carrying a hundred yards and more across the harbour.
Even he was not loud enough to drown the pathetic cries of a fledgling gull, wheedling crumbs from whoever cared to toss or drop them, though he was not risking getting under the feet of any human or dog wandering the quayside. The whine continued, now from one side, now another, as he chased down anyone rash enough to occupy a bench.
The Jackdaws’ more dignified method was to watch from a vantage point and once the humans had got up and left, to circle down, without fuss, and snap up whatever crumbs and trifles the people had scattered about in their usual messy fashion. A most efficient tactic, and managed without the chatter these birds maintain on our rooftops or, as we saw them today at dusk, returning to St Petroc’s tower.
Just before twilight, as we enjoyed a cream tea, we observed a fourth, silent, species of scavengers, scuttling across the roadway, retreating down the steps onto the harbour pontoon if dogs or children took too close an interest – a troop of our tribal totem, the Turnstones. Cream tea crumbs seemed as tasty to them as the delicacies discovered along the tideline. I hope they are getting all their vitamins, but they looked healthy enough and certainly had their wits about them.

Another Commensal

There were a few screw holes left in our walls where fixtures were removed for the builders to get to work. One has been taken over by a line of parcels! IMGP4676Not brown paper but carefully cut scraps of rose leaf, each wrapping a food supply for the egg that the leaf-cutter bee has laid in there. This faces almost due North, so the outer larva will not roast to death.

That mother works hard for babies she’ll probably never know. And how well do we ever know our children? Off they go, God bless them, and how did they get like that?

Here is where you can send your sightings of bees in the United Kingdom: info@theBigBuzz.biz  or beecount@foe.co.uk . There is great concern that bees are losing ground in Britain.

Past generations

This is from last year, before I began blogging. It tells about the woodmouse’s mother who was our commensal. And no, we did not  borrow the cats, and would not have done so; sealing off the cupboards did the trick. In the present day, Junior Miss Tittlemouse came out to entertain NAIB2 and Mrs Turnstone this afternoon.

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23rd August:

Mrs Turnstone’s mouse should not be in the house. She’s not even a house mouse, but a wood mouse who really ought to be at the other side of the French windows, scurrying among the ivy, eating apricot stones and grass seed and even beans and peas. (She did have my first sowing of runner beans, to be fair.)

We know she’s a wood mouse because she comes indoors most evenings to entertain us. The catch-her-alive traps do not work. She seems to have worked out that they are dangerous and avoids entering them by the trapdoor. Last night she was trying instead to get at the peanut butter by nibbling at the side joint, but shunned the welcome mat at the front.

In an old house like this there are innumerable ways for Mrs Tittlemouse to come in and out without our seeing, though she does seem to use the French windows if they are open. Under the floorboards she can progress from front room to living room – let’s hope she doesn’t take up residence in the sofa stuffing. All the mouse-friendly food, including Alphege’s dog biscuits, is now in tall plastic boxes that she cannot climb; the one kitchen cupboard she could get into now contains tins and jars only, but still she scurries about as though she owns the place and merely tolerates us. She comes close enough to tickle my feet with her whiskers, but I’m not fast enough to catch her.

We don’t want to borrow our daughter’s cats!