The two rats that scuttle around the base of the bird feeder are becoming more adventurous. These brown rats have grown noticeably since they first appeared in the garden and one is exploring how to get at the bird-feed more directly.
The highest nut container for the birds is up a wooden post that is just over two metres in height. The post is rough hewn and stands slightly off kilter from the vertical. The intrepid rat has learned that it can climb the whole length using its claws and tail to get closer to the food source. It has not yet worked out how to make the last leap to the feeder. It has seen the blue tits and goldfinches flying to and fro to collect food. It knows that this is the source of the crumbs that are falling to the ground.
When disturbed, the rats scoot through the grass, sometimes leaping into the air, as they rush back to their hiding places. One goes straight back across the garden to the low bushes on the right; the other just runs for the nearest cover. The latter one then has to find a way back to the nest. It tries one route, turns back, tries another. Eventually the only safe way home is to dash straight across the open grass.
I am not particularly enamoured by the presence of these rodents in the garden, but am interested to see how they are behaving. The rats used to have free run of the garden below the feeders, they now face competition from pigeons and doves.
The collared doves are fascinating, but not much more pleasant to see than the rats. They too have to rely on the dropped shells and crumbs falling from the feeders, being too ungainly to balance and feed directly through the wire. However, when a rat gets too close, I saw one collared dove suddenly half-opened its wings to double the impression of its size and surprise the rat so that it moved away. This movement was used successfully several times. It surprised me that the rats did not chase the birds off, but it seems rats, have developed as scavengers and expect to be seen off by bigger beasts, at least when there are plenty of scraps for everyone.
A female collared dove, trying to get some fragments of nuts is stalked by a predatory male. He keeps close to the turf and runs toward her from behind, but she brushes him off and leaps forward out of reach. Once she leaps forward just as he leaps at her and so he lands where she had been and she ends up further up the garden and still the same distance from her stalker. It doesn’t look much like a dance of enticement, but he appears to be determined to wear her down with his attentions.
She is alarmed by a movement, or sound and suddenly she flies off in a flap. He follows her directly to the same branch. Was he aware of any possible danger, or just chasing, regardless? This passion could be the death of him, if he does not keep alert to predators.
During mid-evening you and I exchange a couple of brief texts across the continent. You explain that you need quiet and time with your thoughts.
My son checks in, also by text, before heading off to another night-shift. The minister for health has admitted that stocks of personal, protective equipment are in short supply for nurses and doctors working closely with Covid-19 patients. I feel sick and angry.
I listen to music, go to bed, sleep like a bastard.
17th April, 2020