Friday, 17 September 2021

Sole pigeon in mourning and some more unwelcome visitors to the garden

THE juvenile sparrowhawk, smaller and with paler underparts than the adult, perches on the fence, delicately plucking one of our pair of garden dunnocks, casting its red-brown legs over into the next garden, where we, mercifully, cannot see them.

The resident wood pigeon has also lost its partner and is suffering from depression, hunched in silence on the fence all day instead of parading sticks about and dropping them in the border for me to pick up.

A nuthatch, like a miniature grey woodpecker, is visiting the feeders, taking both peanuts and sunflower seeds but flying off to store them rather than eating them on the perch as the great tits do.

The nuthatch takes a direct low line out of the garden and then begins a light swooping, similar to a woodpecker, as it crosses the open roads to the wood.

Less welcome are the magpies, tapping along the sills for spiders, and the rats. Do not leave windfalls out for the birds — it simply feeds the rats. Rather leave a few apples at the top of the tree, where only wasps and blackbirds can reach them.

As the days darken, Nettlebed Woods are still glowing with autumn colour and criss-crossed by well-marked paths.

If you turn right just before Nettlebed and start at Catslip, you can follow the straight Roman road to Bix Common. Turn left there down the road to Bix Bottom. Following this quiet lane to the left, turn left again when you reach the ruined church and climb back up to Crocker End, with stunning views back across the valley.

When it is really wet visit the Oxford Museum of Natural History and the Pitt-Rivers Collection attached to it — easier to reach and more compact than the London museums (take the park and ride).

They illustrate every possible animal and human topic in a fascinating way with skeletons, shrunken heads, an active beehive, trails for children and just enough information to guide rather than overwhelm the visitor in a beautifully designed building, all for a donation.

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