Tag Archives: woodmouse

1 January: Singing in the New Year.

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It was a great pleasure that the first bird I heard this year was a song thrush from a bush in a neighbour’s garden, closely followed by blackbird, starlings, pigeons, jackdaws … suburban Canterbury on wings.

I gave greater pleasure to Mrs Turnstone when she heard that in the course of tidying the woodstore, separating the kindling from the logs that had been hastily laid on top of them, I had seen a woodmouse scurrying to safety. She had not liked laying down poison for the rats that had infested the other end of the garden, fearing for the colony of mice that has been here longer than the family Turnstone. This year’s Mrs Tittlemouse is made of stern stuff.

A grace note to the story: the kindling was 18 month old apricot. Clattering the sticks together released the scent of the fruit, just as the leaves did. See ‘Two unexpected autumn gifts’, November 24th 2018.

Another of those years

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This year we made more like 200 jars of apricot jam than 20; never was there such a fruiting in all the years the tree has been with us.

I wondered about the stones: was there a quick and easy way of cracking them open to get at the kernels, used in Italy to make amaretto. Events got in the way of that, but when Mrs T cleared out the shed she found that the wood mice had carried a great heap of stones into a dark corner and feasted on the amaretti. No biscuits or liquor for us, but who could begrudge the mice their treat?

 

Caught again!

He still makes me look to the back door of the house if I am in the garden: the next cock blackbird up the street, with his imitation of a telephone ring – the same one that we have indoors. As well for my sanity that he is not a song thrush, singing each song twice over! I heard the same notes again this afternoon, from a blackbird near Mrs O’s garden; far enough away not to be the same bird. It’s usually starlings that work mimicry into their songs – or so I thought.

Back in our garden, three of us have seen Mrs Tittlemouse this week, even if Mrs Turnstone was just in time to see a tail whisk behind a brick, she did see her mascot. Smiles all round.

 

Spring, my mother said.

Let us celebrate the good done by surgeons, in particular eye surgeons. This note from my mother in Yorkshire is the result of her cataract operations giving her new sight.

Spring seems to have the upper hand at the moment.  When I was in the village this afternoon the big beech tree growing on the banks of the river and sending its great branches up, and above the bridge, was sending out its first delicate new leaves.  The sun shines through them and they are as soft as silk.  Standing on the bridge I could reach and touch them and the river below sparkled as it tumbled over stones that had been immersed in almost flood water for so long.    Even the small, brown trout were visible, and a Dipper was busy hunting for food beneath the water……………the village was busy, the traffic was noisy, but no one seemed interested or bothered with the magic on the bridge.

Spring is trying to assert itself in Kent as well. Here are a few observations from being out and about over the last week. I did not miss all the magic …

Friday, cycling along the road through the woods: an orange tip butterfly over a stand of garlic mustard, its food plant.

Saturday: Mrs Tittlemouse was on the yard, hoping to snatch a few crumbs. So were a sparrow and Mr Robin. He was so aggressive to the sparrow that Mrs Tittlemouse hid behind a flowerpot til he’d gone.

Sunday, living up to its name: Mrs Turnstone and daughter No 1 both saw the woodmouse; Mrs Turnstone feels that Spring is here.

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Monday, a trip to a cold Hastings to meet daughter No 3 and young Mr Turnstone. Bikers and pagans out in force for May Day. The latter drinking deep; the greenness round the gills not entirely derived from greasepaint. As the Jerwood gallery were inviting visitors to draw a green man on acetate for their window, I obliged.

Tuesday, back on the Brompton through the woods, this time on the track: a whitethroat singing where the path crosses a farm with the remains of a hedge still on one side.

Wednesday: a lizard in the classroom when I was visiting daughter No 2. Most of her pupils had gone home, but the one remaining had his eyes peeled. We caught the reptile in this blanket, put her outdoors – and she straightway came back in again and hid out of reach!

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Thursday: swifts screaming overhead as I ate breakfast in the garden. And so many more flowers out than I noticed on Tuesday or Saturday. Going slowly uphill means that violets, bluebells, primroses, herb Robert, stitchwort are all on eye level to a slow cyclist (who still gets up the hill!) On my way out of town in the afternoon I spotted my first beetroot-coloured blonde sunbather. She must have fallen asleep in the park.

Friday: Freddie the Norfolk terrier was being led home in disgrace, having rolled in fox manure. He was not the most popular dog in the park, but will the hosing down he was walking home to teach him a lesson?

 

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.

More Guerilla Gardening

When T attacks his overgrown garden – neglected for years before he and K moved in this month – he’s a human bulldozer, while his father-in-law looks, identifies, wonders what to do with this or that. Hence I came home with two Kentish cob or hazel seedlings. The parent bush is many-stemmed and stands on the North side of the garden, a good six metres high. It also stands on the South side of next-door neighbour Ivy’s garden, blocking her share of sunshine.

A Winter’s job, coppicing the tree; today’s task was to rescue a couple of squirrel or woodmouse-planted seedlings and bring them back to be nurtured. And then rehomed. Nowhere around here is free of squirrels though, so the prospect of ever tasting a nut is infinitesimal. I’m sure I’ll think of somewhere. Perhaps one of them will serve as a singing post for blackbird generations yet to come, as the parent tree was doing this afternoon.

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!’

Shared Space in the Garden and Street

One of Mrs Turnstone’s necessities in a garden is a pond; ours is small but limpid, though since the fish were evicted by Mrs T it is choked in weed. Perhaps we can remove a few pailfuls over the winter and let it start afresh in February and March.

Last week, as we sat in the pondside sunshine, a green dragonfly hovered between us for a few seconds: a memorable close encounter to be grateful for. But will her babies eat the tadpoles?

Today, 1st October, it was warm enough for a smart, grownup frog to be sitting on top of the mass of weed, golden eyes shining. He could not force his way under the weed to avoid my attention. We certainly will have to remove those pailfuls of weed!

The last couple,of weeks have given us other local sightings: the foxes were very vocal for a few nights, but then their minds and hearts were occupied with thoughts of love. I remembered the first time I saw wild foxes, when newly arrived from Birmingham at school in the Borders. A walk up the Eildons with three or four other young lads was brought to a halt by bloodcurdling screams and yelps  from a thicket. Suddenly the racket ceased and two magnificent foxes emerged to delight us townies and explain the unknown cries.

Last week Mrs T was pleased, even overjoyed, at the news that a woodmouse had been sighted at the front of the house; the first one seen since the Spring, but the camera on my phone would not have captured her, even if I had been alert to the  chance of such a meeting. Indeed, a few nights earlier I had failed miserably to produce anything recognisable as a hedgehog when one posed for me by the pillar box on the corner. Another one for the memory bank, not the pc picture folder.

It’s hard to be sure, but I think the leafcutter bees may have left their nursery. The flap of rose leaf at the entrance looks as though it may have been pushed aside slightly.

And finally, we saw what was probably our last bat of 2014, flittering about the back gardens and street light. A pipistrelle, Carolyn Billingsley tells us. She’s our consultant on such matters.

Enjoy a blessed Autumn!