Nice Surprise

Once a Month I like to set up my Moth Trap, and get a good close up look at what’s flying around out there in the dark. The bright 125watt methane vapour lamp glows like a false Moon, creating a dome of white light, that weakens and gives in to the darkness at its extremities. In the blackness of rural night, to any passing or resident Moth, this light must seem like a Super Moon, and must be checked out.
The Light reveals more than Moths. Brock’s stripey face is easily seen, as his grey bulk shuffles along the track, stopping occasionally to sniff, then have a quick dig.
The Barn Owl glides into the dome of light, its pale coloration makes its appearance seem instantaneous, like a magical illusion. Its blood curdling screech sends a shiver down my spine. The eyes of the Horses (Kracker and Poppy) catch the light as they graze, making me think instantly of evil creatures, lurking out there in the unknown. Silly, I know, but that’s what the dark and the night do to me. The large oak doors of my imagination are pushed open, and every conceivable ghoulish thought in my head is released and allowed to scrape their fingernails across the blackboard of my imagination.

But, the Sun rises, bringing with it a return to the familiar. Those evil creatures of the night have left the paddocks, and thank the Lord, Kracker and Poppy are both ok.
Sat comfortably on my green plastic chair, I lean forward and start to examine the egg cartons of my Moth Trap. I feel like a kid at Christmas, the expectancy and anticipation, I don’t know what’s flown in there, and I have no idea what each turn of a carton will reveal.

The real surprise on this occasion came in the form of a Dotted Chestnut. A very rare Moth in Staffordshire, in fact, it has only been recorded once before, and that was in 1997, so you can imagine how chuffed I am.

Dotted Chestnut – the second record for Staffordshire.

The Blackbirds are singing now, it’s time to venture outside and feed the waiting hoards, then sit down in front of my Skinner Trap to check for more nice surprises.

P.S No Moths were harmed in the making of this epic post.

Connection

I’ve sat here in this old chair for many Winters past; warmed by the flames of tended fire and sheltered from Nature’s inclement weather by a deep thatch of golden straw. It is from this humble, privileged position that I observe the creatures that visit and share my space, as they feast upon the offerings that are always available to them. Leaving the cosy interior of the cottage, each and every day at cockcrow, and entering the dawn of a new day, to feed the waiting expectant mouths forges the connection between my life and theirs. What I feel and experience in those few short-lived minutes, of the cold night that has gone before is but only a brief taste of what they, the birds and animals, have had to endure. Their – let’s get on with it – approach to life is not only endearing, but it’s also inspirational.

There are many birds that frequent my garden, I’ve recorded 126 species so far, and the daily count of the more common species can often exceed 100.
I find it spellbinding to watch them coming and going. Their constant movement a conveyor belt of colour as they hop through the leafless shrubs towards their reward. There is an obvious pecking order that is rigorously enforced, each bird defending its place on the feeder with harmless shows of aggression. That which appears to be an unorganised free for all, is, in fact, a well-disciplined routine. The food never runs out, so each and everyone gets fed. Most species grace my surroundings all year round with their presence; but some, such as Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting are seasonal, just popping in now and again during the lean months to eat and drink.
I move around the garden slowly, cautiously, preventing any sudden movement that may alarm or spook them. It’s their home as much as mine. I use my voice, mainly tuts and clicks made with my tongue, to softly announce my presence. I’m not perceived as a threat, so most carry on with their business and ignore me. With a little thought and consideration, this stealthy behaviour soon becomes second nature, and it’s not long before the rewards start to pour in; Robins, of which there are three pairs around the garden, are the first to appear. In the blink of an eye, little Rocky appears on one of his many perches: the Wheelbarrow, fork handle or a twig, and draws my attention by bobbing his body and whistling a few notes. I reach into the right pocket of my fleece and produce three suet pellets, I offer them on a flattened outstretched palm, talking softly to reassure and coax Rocky into action. The ploy works and Rocky flies from his perch onto my fingertips to collect a morsel. The only sound that I hear is that of his whirring wings (prrrr) as he attempts to hover before landing lightly on his Human perch; fanning any small crumbs to the floor to be eaten later.
So intense is the encounter.

Ladybirch Cottage: wonderful at any-time of the Year.
Last years new arrivals
The damson blossom of Spring

Spring is a meal, a feast! Each harbinger an ingredient that enhances the flavour and enjoyment of this Mother Of All Banquets. There are many familiar faces already sat at the table, with more yet to arrive. Old friends returning to us after their long Winter absence. Some, such as the Garden Warbler, will add its melodic song to the mix, while the Orange Tip butterfly drenched in Sunlight, will splash the canvas with pigments tangerine.
All of this and so much more is yours to enjoy. FREE!

Behind Bars

What have I done wrong in life to deserve this? Bars – shiny bars – trapped, there’s no escape. But the chance will present itself, and I’ll seize the moment and be gone! Just you wait and see. Mind you – on saying that – is it in my best interest to escape? I mean – all things taken into consideration, life’s pretty cushty in here. I may be deprived of love, affection, and company, but at least I’m fed and watered, and look at all this straw, there’s enough to stuff a pillow. I wonder what the penalty for escape is; death! The worst they can do is kill me. My mind’s made up, I’m going to go for it, tomorrow, or the day after – I will have my freedom – just you watch!

The heavy oak door opened. Muffled voices, almost whisperers, and the sound of shuffling feet, lots of feet, reached my ears. This sudden activity a total contrast from the occasional gurgle of a water-pipe amidst the stillness of the night. But this is routine, the same time every morning. Except for weekends that is, then I could die and rot, no one would notice or care. As long as I stayed still, I would be ignored, maybe glanced at, but left in peace. Most who walked in front of my bars did so obliviously, not in any way, shape or form registering my existence – let alone my presence. Except for one that is. A mean, evil looking individual, who seemed to enjoy the attention that being cruel brought him. I remember the first time I saw his fat, acne covered face. He pushed a large stick between the bars, jabbing, poking, provoking me into a reaction. Johnny, the culprit’s name was, he obviously got pleasure from mistreating me because the big cheesy grin never left his fat, puffy face. I hated the very sight of that brain dead moron, and then some. I swore that one day I would have my revenge. One way or the other.

“Come along Children – quick as you can – keep the noise down, you’re not at a football match. – Pick your feet up Johnny.” Instructed Mrs. Honeybuttock over the din of the Children as they filed into class. The sound of scraping chairs lessened as the class settled in, then subsided completely. The Children, hands clasped together on their desktops, eyes front, focused on Mrs. Honeybuttock, now looked angelic, as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.
“Right Children, pay attention! After I call the register, we need to start preparing for End Of Term close down. ”
Mrs. H, as she was referred to by her pupils, behind her back, of course, was a stereotypical, glasses on the end of the nose, Dickensian battle-axe, who didn’t flinch or hesitate to clip an ear or scuff a head with an efficient slap.

Mrs. Treadwell (Joyce) was ecstatic, her new sofa was due for delivery this morning. She’d waited a long time for this moment, five years in fact. She sprang to her feet full of excitement.
“They’re here! I mean it’s here. Get the door, Fred. Hurry up, they’re coming up the path, they don’t want to be holding that new sofa all day.” Faffed Joyce.
“Calm down Pet, you’ll wet ya’sen.” said Fred, folding his daily paper, then tossing it onto the dining room table. He stood up, hooked his thumbs under his bracers then stretched them over his shoulders. Bending at the knees, he performed a Rock – on – Tommy impression, that failed to impress Joyce then he headed for the door.

” Come on Chaps – straight through – mind the step.”
” Morning Mr. Treadwell. It’s not heavy, just awkward, but we’ll manage. Just make sure the way is clear.”
” No probs – just head for that heavenly choral sounding foghorn.”
” Yoo-hoo! In here pet’s. Mind the best China.”
The two delivery lads followed the instructions given by Joyce, and soon the Sofa was in its place, unwrapped of its protective plastic, there for everyone to see and admire.
Full of glee, Joyce held out a brand new un-creased slippery fiver.
” Here you are Lads, get yourselves a bag of chips.”
Fred and Joyce stood on the step, waved goodbye to the Delivery Men, then dashed back indoors to admire the new, all singing, all dancing sofa.

Mrs. Honeybuttock clapped her hands together to attract the classes’ attention. Satisfied they were all hers, she continued.
” Right Children, according to my records, Johhny Treadwell, it’s your turn to look after Clive.”
Clive – that’s me. Yes, I know it’s a stupid name for a Hamster, but I had no say in the matter. I’m sure you’ll all agree though, my real name, Terry, is much more fitting.
” Aw, Miss! Must I?”
” Yes, you must! You know the rules, just make sure you remember to take Clive’s goody bag home with you and bring him back in one piece.”

After a day spent showing off the new sofa, and testing various sitting positions, Joyce and Fred sat back to await the arrival of their beloved offspring, Johhny.
” Here he is now.” Declared Mom. ” What’s that he’s carrying?”
” It looks some sort of cage, you never know with that little bleeda.”
” I’m home!” Yelled Johnny.
” We’re in the front room pet.” Shouted Mom in reply.
Johnny, with his arms full, entered the room.
” What’s got theeya son?” Asked Dad.
” It’s the Class Hamster – and his names’ Clive. I’ve got to look after him until after the Holidays.”
” Bring him here, let’s have a dekka.”
As Johnny approached the sofa, holding the cage at arm’s length, Mom pulled her legs up and squirmed.
” Don’t bring it near me! You know that I hate the furry critters!”

I will never forget what happened next. One minute I was curled up in my bed of straw, dreaming that I was having a luncheon on board a Carribean yacht with Mrs. Honeybuttock, next thing I know, I’m gamboling through the air. It felt as though I was in a tumble dryer, but that’s another story.
Suddenly, there was such an almighty crash bang wallop. I thought my time had come, my little heart pounded. After what seemed like an eternity, I poked my twitching nose outside. Devastation, complete and utter devastation, my entire little world had been trashed. The water bowl had tipped up, soaking everything, my dish of De-Lux Rodent Pellets was in three pieces, the contents everywhere, swelling in size with water, and my wheel, my beloved wheel, the one that I used to spend hours in, running round and round, lay on its side on the roof, that was now the floor.
And then I saw it, the cage door was open, a gaping square hole. I tell you what – I’ve never reacted and moved so fast in my life. While the Humans bickered, I made my move!

” You stupid little oaf, now look what you’ve done! ” Scolded Dad.
“But – but they’re your slippers, you shouldn’t leave them lying around, someone could break their neck.” Said, Johnny, defensively.
Mom’s bum was two feet off the sofa when she screamed. ” Aaaaghh! THE BLOODY HAMSTER’S OUT!”
I ran up Fred’s leg, then dived between the cushions, and squirmed my way into the dark interior of Joyce’s new sofa. Outside the bickering continued, accusations and curses flew. Five podgy fingers groped blindly in the dark.”I’ll get the little toe rag, Mom, get the cage ready.”
I was cornered, the podgy porkers touched my whiskers, and then grabbed me.
“GOT HIM – GOT HIM!” Yelled Johnny triumphantly.
His grip was so tight, I thought my ribs were going to crack, so I opened my mouth as wide as possible to reveal my two milk-white incisors. Without hesitating, I bit down hard, drawing blood, and achieving instant release.
His scream, I bet it was heard two streets away. Serves him right.

Seven Months I’ve lived here now, life’s a doddle, they’ll never catch me, unless Joyce carries out her threat, and gets a Cat.

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