It is the first time I have had time to look about me at home since last week. The weekend was taken up, there was the funeral of a great friend and CID colleague on Monday, I was working at the National Wildlife Crime Unit on Tuesday and Wednesday, and now at last there was some time to catch up.
I was overjoyed that we still have a daily visit from the single fieldfare. It hopped round a selection of apples looking – I presume – for the tastiest one. The blackbirds had been and gone and there was no competition apart from a disinterested chaffinch busying itself with black sunflower seeds I always put on the ground first thing in the morning for the red squirrels. After two circuits to inspect half a dozen half apples it decided on one of the freshest, which had fallen on to the drive, and began to peck greedily.
Next to arrive were the chaffinches. They came in a gang and it was as if a bus-load had just arrived from Perth and descended on the feeders at the front of the house. I was disappointed to see there were no bramblings, but shortly after they arrived at the feeders at the back of the house. There were still at least 25 of them. Most were feeding on the ground but of those that were landing on the feeders they were easily separated from the chaffinches by flashes of their very visible white rump. There seemed to be twice as many males as females, though maybe they are more noticeable being more brightly coloured.
I only saw one red squirrel during the morning: the darker-coloured one which I call ‘the jumper.’ It still engages in its routine of jumping from the tree with the squirrel feeder across to the neighbouring tree with its peanut (or peanuts) and running down that tree to find a suitable place to cache them. I had some primulas to plant in the empty flower pots on the front and back steps, and as I made small holes with the trowel I unearthed some of the squirrels’ hoard there. The peanuts looked mouldy and unappetising, but the hazelnuts, still in their shells, looked fine. I put those at the squirrels’ favourite feeding places so they could find them and re-bury them.
When I was upstairs in the house I saw that a heron had emerged from under the bridge over the burn and was walking very slowly upstream. I ran downstairs for the camera and crept close to the window, kneeling on the floor so that just my head would be visible. I managed one measly photo before the heron’s beady eye saw me and it was away. They are as wary as ravens, probably – like ravens – because they have been persecuted so much. Herons are regular visitor to the burn, especially in summer, when we always get immature herons trying to establish suitable feeding places. One day we watched a young heron standing on the grass at the side of the burn in the pouring rain. It looked thoroughly miserable, with its head just about buried in its body and a drip of water at the end of its dagger bill. It stood there in the rain for the best part of an hour but that, unfortunately, was the last time we ever saw it. I suppose a high proportion of young herons don’t make it and I suspected when I looked at it that it might not have been too healthy.
By mid-afternoon I was beginning to worry about the redder red squirrel as Jan, my wife, had only seen the darker ‘jumper’ the day before. Cats, buzzards and other dangers crossed my mind, not for the first time. My fears were unfounded as suddenly both appeared at the front of the house feeding quite happily together. That had made my day.