Posts Tagged 'urban wildlife'

Killing with Kindness

After a bracing run round the park this morning, dodging all the nut-crazed squirrels, I stepped into the shower with not a minute to spare if I was to catch my train to work. Cue ‘Psycho’ shower scene music. Thankfully my horror wasn’t caused by the spouse wielding the breadknife, although I’m sure he’s been sorely tempted recently. No, it was worse. A teeny weeny spider was clinging to the plughole cover, and although I’m terrified of spiders, I don’t like to kill them. I usually make an escape ladder out of toilet paper (for the spider, not me) but there was no time for that this morning.

Another 50 gallons of hot water went down the drain while I decided on my strategy. Why I didn’t just turn the shower off is still a mystery, but after a while, I reached for the long-handled back brush and began fumbling about unsuccessfully in an attempt to entice Mr Spider to safety. “Go on, climb on to the bristles”, I said repeatedly as if he could hear me, but his ears were clearly full of water. Both of us got wetter and wetter until, worried that he was going to drown, I made a desperate lunge with the brush, and to my horror, accidentally crushed him to death instead.

My guilt at being an inadvertent spider murderer totally overshadowed the relief at finally being able to get into the shower, and I made a mental note to use a more delicate piece of rescue equipment next time.


Nocturnal Noises

State of the art digital imaging techniques reveal the mysterious Beast of Queen's Park

I awoke rather prematurely at 3:41 am this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. The task was made even harder by some drunken eejit noisily and methodically dragging a stick back and forwards along the railings outside.

“Bloody hell, what’s that?” said the spouse eventually, sitting bolt upright in bed and pulling his earplugs out.

He leapt to the window to see if the railing percussionist was about to begin on the parked cars, but  the noise suddenly stopped, and mysteriously there was nobody in sight. As I fumbled for my glasses, the spouse said “Come and see this…”. Just as I got to the window, the noise started again and I could see a huge fox excitedly circling a neighbour’s car. Funny noise for a fox to make, I thought, but since his mouth wasn’t moving I deduced that some terrified and tasty creature of another species was hiding under the car and emitting an alarm call that bizarrely sounded like a stick on a railing.

Mr Fox circled his intended victim several times before sneakily going to hide in the bushes across the road to watch for the railing soundalike making an escape. I was impressed by his strategic thinking, but his road crossing skills were somewhat lacking and he narrowly escaped being flattened by passing cars several times as he repeated his routine.

He must have either succeeded in his plan or got fed up, because the strange noise stopped shortly after we went back to bed. I lay awake for the next three hours listening to the much more familiar noises in my head instead.

Nature Watch, Queen’s Park style

Young magpie leaving the nest for the first time

The spouse has been monitoring the activity going on in the fork of this tree in the back garden for several weeks now. Two of the world’s noisiest magpies have been raising their brood just yards from his study window. The nest building part took over a month because the parents to-be acquired a shiny wire coat-hanger and insisted on trying to incorporate it into the foundations of their treetop fortress. After accidentally dropping it to the ground from 50 feet up several hundred times, they eventually abandoned their radical construction methods and went for more conventional materials. A mixture of mud, sticks and fresh sealant pecked out of the surround of our newly refurbished kitchen window was painstakingly fashioned into the giant edifice of a nest, just in the nick of time for the arrival of the eggs.

For the next few weeks, nothing other than a tail sticking out of the top of the nest was seen until, a couple of Fridays ago, the babies suddenly appeared on the rim of the nest, looking a little unsteady on their spindly legs. After a full day of gentle coaxing, mummy magpie got fed up and gave her reluctant offspring a hefty push from behind. The spouse gave a horrified gasp as he gave me a live update on events over the phone, but fortunately our little feathered friends landed beak-first in the compost heap at the foot of the tree and survived the fall. As we left for Bute last week, the proud parents were perched on an overflow pipe across the lane, clacking away noisily in the sunshine, as their rapidly growing carnivorous brood ravaged the bin shed like pros.

None of them saw Slinky, the black and white neighbourhood tomcat, sliding silently under the garden gate and licking his lips. Hopefully he went hungry…


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