Archive | April, 2011

King of the Dandelions

24 Apr

Broccles the rabbit ventured outside for the first time yesterday. It was a golden evening, and Bunty and I had returned with a friend from a fun (if unsuccessful) geocaching adventure in the Trossachs. I opened the back door for the cats to roll around in the last rays of sun, and Broccles came and poked his nose over the door sill.

He has done this before, but decided that the whole garden thing was not his scene. This time, however, Clive the guinea pig trundled past his line of vision. Ever since we put the guinea pigs to live outside, Broccles has been hopping restlessly around the suddenly-quiet house. I thought he might have been looking for them. Certainly, the moment he saw Clive, he decided that the garden was his sort of place after all.

He hopped outside and proceeded to rub his chin on everything he could find. This is how rabbits scent-mark stuff they feel is theirs. He scent-marked the barbecue, the guinea pigs Clive and Colin, their hutch, the patio furniture, flowerpots, the plum tree, a brick, and a whole lot of dandelions. He nibbled the lawn, stamped his foot bossily, ran hither and thither, and then a sheep baaed over the garden wall and Broccles dove back into the safety of the porch.

His porch, I should say. It has been methodically scent-marked.

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The Wasp Ninja

23 Apr

I found this beauty in the washing up bowl this afternoon, and scooped her out with the tin I happened to be holding in my hand. She sat on the rim, meticulously wiping herself dry in the sunshine.

She is a queen Vespula vulgaris (common wasp; yellowjacket to my American friends), and she was in the kitchen because she was on the hunt for somewhere to build a nest. There have been a lot of them about lately, flying in as soon as we open a door or window, and investigating the dark nooks and crannies inside our cottage. We are having to keep a close eye on the garden hutches, in case a nest appears inside one of them.

Three years ago, a queen wasp found her way into the ceiling above our porch, and her colony grew and grew until the plaster bulged and stained. We could hear them moving about in there.

“They’re sussurating,” shuddered Bunty. Bunty likes wasps from a distance. As great a distance as possible.

They were in danger of chewing their way through the ceiling and getting chased by the cats, who had not learned about wasps. Bunty feared a cat might get stung in the throat and suffocate. On top of this, we were in favour of an intact, hole-free house.

I happen to be almost as fond of wasps as I am of their close relations, the ants. I do not have it in me to go around killing them; but I appreciated that this was a territory dispute, and Bunty must do what he must do. He bought some wasp killer spray and donned his wasp-fighting armour. Here he is in his armour.

He stood several feet from the house and sprayed blindly in the direction of the nest, for a long time, then stepped smartly indoors, shutting the door behind him. The next day, we found three dead wasps. He tried again the following evening, and this time was successful in vanquishing them. We had dying wasps crawling out of the woodwork for a week. The cats were delighted. Luckily, the Wasp Ninja got to them all before the cats did.

Juvenile Swans

22 Apr

The campus where I study is a landscape of lawns and woodland full of rabbits and squirrels, interspersed with lochans aswim with all manner of waterfowl.

The wildlife can be seen from most buildings on the campus. I love to study at a library window, where I can watch them all scooting and scurrying about their business.

Scooting coots

With spring sprouting everywhere, I have been keeping an eye out for ducklings and cygnets. So far there has been no sign of them, so I was surprised when, all of a sudden, swans with brown patches were to be seen wandering the campus. The brown patches are a sign that they are still youngsters and have not finished growing their adult plumage.

Did I miss the scads of baby waterbirdlets, were they incubated and raised somewhere else – or are these last year’s juveniles?