Tuesday 24 April 2012

A rat! A rat in the arras!

Our tom cat Baron, aka Bagger, is to be congratulated on the scientific capture and despatch of his first brown rat (rattus norvegicus) known in France as le rat surmulot, rat de Norvège or rat d'égout. He - and we - have been observing this rat for some time, as it was competing with the ground-feeding birds for scraps falling from our bird feeders under the cherry tree. The goldfinches having vanished, there are now fewer seeds tossed aside by these greedy birds in their pursuit of sunflower seeds, but then the hen pheasants that were gobbling up most of the discards have vanished too. Both goldfinches and pheasants are now no doubt sitting on eggs out in the meadow somewhere.

This looks tasty....
 Ms Rat (for she was a female, not lactating) was a plump beast with a glistening coat, having had the benefit of an excellent diet under our bird feeders. Were it not for the diseases the rat is known to carry, one could call her a handsome creature. Bagger was on his way into the house via the back door when movement caught his eye. He shot across, waited until the rat moved, then pounced, caught it cleanly by the back of the neck, and brought it to the doorstep unharmed and kicking furiously for us to admire it, before putting an end to it cleanly with a single bite. Death by skilled cat or terrier seems to me a far kinder method of disposing of vermin than those devised by mankind - Warfarin (die slowly of internal bleeding), Rat Glue (die slowly of starvation while stuck to a board) or Rat Skouiz (die slowly of suffocation tangled up in a rubber band). At least the old fashioned "Little Nipper" trap or tapette is reliably quick - unless the rat gets a leg caught in it... And a humane trap is all very well, but what do you do with the rat once you've caught it? Well, we rewarded Bagger with cat treats. Now for the really big target - ragondins!

It was! Now, where's that cat?
Bagger is really rather an unusual cat. For one thing, he roars. You know that "mad five minutes" that strikes a cat occasionally, sending it racing round the house in several directions simultaneously? When he does that, sometimes he lets out a brief, guttural roar. Then he looks surprised.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Oh! What a beautiful morning....Oh! What a lovely way....

 ...to wake up!

I went to bed early last night... feeling tired, depressed because a sharp frost had hit some 'hardy' fuchsias that I'd just uncovered in an effort to tidy up... and fed up with the weather that's hampering efforts to get on top of the meadow. You'll have spotted that we haven't put anything up here in the past three weeks because there has really been nothing much to say. We've made observations of various birds, however this isn't a "twitter" site...

At Boeing-o-clock this morning [7:07] I was woken... not by hungry cats, but by the dawn chorus outside the bedroom window....
Male Blackcap singing outside the bedroom window

We've seen this little fellow and his "other half" around since mid-March... and heard his song in the past few days... he seems to have taken a liking to my willow nursery area that has young trees in it 'that must be moved'... but now not until Autumn. I cannot now move the willows without major disturbance to a probably nesting bird... I'll nip in with a sharp spade and cut round the roots to make life easier later.... and to harm the trees less when I do move them.

However, that is a problem for later... back to an hour ago... this Blackcap [Sylvia atricapilla] Fauvette à tête noire was singing his heart out in the top of one of the willows 'that must be moved' and disturbed our slumbers in a beautiful fashion! I use a Nightingale song as my alarm on the 'phone and that usually wakes us up... but the Blackcap's song was so loud this morning that Pauline asked if I'd left my 'phone downstairs... it isn't set to go off on Sundays anyway.

As I went to make tea and feed the normal alarm clocks a Nightingale did start up from the Blackthorn [prunelle] by the river... that was then accompanied by a rhythm section [batterie]... the Greater-spotted Woodpecker started drumming in the dead willow that is in the middle of the Norway maples.... all that and the sunshine has "reet chaired me oop!"

Since posting this I spotted the male arrive at the middle front of the tree nursery... and the female immediately flew out, towards me as the male disappeared behind where she flew from. Possibly sitting, so I won't try cutting around the trees for at least three weeks. I'll wait until there is no regular activity.... or it is obvious that they are feeding young.

Just a note: The female Blackcap has a chestnut cap... and a bit more about them and the song can be found  here [along with the a comparison of the Garden Warbler song and a nice picture of the female.]