This afternoon there was a loud thump as something banged into the patio window and I found Kepler about to grab a small bird, so I fended him off and picked it up.
It crouched in my hand, panting with its beak open and its head leaning back. I was convinced it had a broken neck.
In case it recovered and so it wouldn’t fly round the house acquiring further injuries, I put it in a box on top of the barbecue.
A few minutes later I was checking it against the picture in my birdbook, when it suddenly fluttered up and vanished.
I thought I might as well take the box into the house, moved it and in so doing disturbed the bird’s hiding place. It flew away, circled round in the air, landed on the terrace, then shot straight into a rose bush and disappeared.
That was quite a swansong if it was on the point of dying. I hope it was a sign that it will live long and prosper.
I took Kepler to relieve himself late last night, and when I opened the door two unusual things happened: he stiffened, and I saw a black shape the size of a kitten move slowly away from the doorstep.
I shut Kepler in with Clive, grabbed a torch, and went to investigate.
A large, squashy toad was crouching against the wall.
I’ve seen this sort of toad before – quite probably the selfsame toad. In autumn they dig themselves into loose soil to hibernate, and I’ve felt them in there with my hands.
On the first occasion, not knowing what I’d felt, I dug the toad out completely and held it. It filled my palm and spilled over the sides.
This particular toad was only intent on getting itself into the shadows and it lolloped away.
When I collected Kepler he could tell where it had gone, but he was on a lead so that was one thing he didn’t get a chance to hunt.
In the early spring it would be possible for me to kid myself that the foxgloves we introduced to the garden had seeded themselves in all sorts of interesting places.
Sadly I know this isn’t the case. We’re in fact harbouring a powerful and (where it gets comfortable enough to grow a tap root) almost indestructible weed – burdock.
Until they declare themselves, foxglove and burdock plants look remarkably alike. The photo shows a foxglove growing and a burdock uprooted and set alongside it.
The main difference is that the central vein is reddish on foxglove leaves and starkly white on burdock leaves.
In our case there isn’t much danger of pulling up foxgloves by mistake. Basically if you don’t remember planting it there, it’s a burdock.
We were sitting outside having lunch today when I noticed a small wasp flying up underneath a hollow block at the front of the barbecue.
I picked up the block and looked inside the hollow. Sure enough, there was a grey, papery, honeycomb-style nest with a couple of wasps crawling over it.
Paper wasps are smaller, more focussed and much less agressive than larger wasps, although if cornered they do sting.
I think it says it all, though, that I was able to turn the block upside down and take photos of it while the queen clung to the cells and none of her workers gave me any grief at all.
The swimming pool has now been cleaned by the robot and filled to the correct level.
The pump still has to be started and the fine particles, stirred up by the robot, hopefully cleared by the sand filter.
But I’m getting nearer to the point of being able to go in.
It would have been nice to swim at sunset today and break through those cloud reflections!
At last the weather has become just about warm enough to take the tarpaulin off the outside swimming pool.
The weird landscape in the photo is actually the surface of the tarpaulin. The hillock in the middle is made by one of the ice-expansion-compensators floating on the water underneath. The dark patches are fallen leaves.
When the tarpaulin is rolled back, all the water lying on top of it accumulates and is then too heavy to lift over the rim of the pool. I actually got into the pool and tried pushing it from inside, but it didn’t work. The only thing to do is to drain the water by means of a syphon.
Kepler had a wonderful time playing with the jet of water as it was syphoned off and then dashing in and out of the folds of the tarpaulin where it lay on the ground.