Archive | November, 2011

Autumn Meandering

27 Nov

Today has been one of those golden Autumn Sundays, with long shadows and dreamy sheep in the meadows, and secret warbles emanating from the hedgerows. Hoping to garner enthusiasm for my university assignment due tomorrow, I took a stroll up the lane to visit the wildlife pond.

Although the fields are flooded, the pondwater was very low today, exposing its weed-covered silt. Somewhere under the surface the fish were no doubt lurking, but the water looked lifeless – except for a large grey heron standing knee-deep in it, stabbing among the weeds with its beak. We startled each other, and the heron lifted itself away and flew heavily across the field.

I crouched in a space among the shrubbery edging the pond and waited for half an hour, hoping to get a shot of the heron returning. As my pins and needles set in, I could see it waiting politely in the distance for me to leave.

A honking sound in the sky drew my eye to a skein of geese flying West for the Winter. Common knowledge dictates that geese fly South for the Winter, but here they always fly West. Perhaps they are headed for Canada.

Rapidly losing sensation in my legs, I stood and meandered back to the cottage, leaving the heron to its own devices. Under the trees near the pond, someone had been chopping firewood, and the air smelled sweet and damp.

The crab-apple trees along the lane have unburdened themselves of their fruit, and I used my scarf as a makeshift bag to collect it for the guinea pigs.

I now feel refreshed and cheerful, the guinea pigs are well fed, and my assignment calculations are looking as daunting as ever.

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Muesli Burglar

25 Nov

Last week, I had a terrible shock. The gatehouse cottage where we live guards a private lane that opens onto a busy main road. Cars and lorries careen along this road at 60 miles per hour plus. Thanks to our walled garden, our free-running beasties can remain safe – most of the time.

Last week, I happened across a tunnel in a flowerbed near the garden wall. When I reached into it, my hand felt it open out onto the main road. Broccles the rabbit was nowhere to be seen. I am not normally a fast mover, but I sprinted through the gate and around the house that day as though I was on fire. Broccles wasn’t in the road, nor in the fields beyond.

I summoned Bunty out to help search for him, while I blocked off the tunnel and made sure the guinea pigs were still present and correct. They were feasting on windfalls, and had no intention of going anywhere. Broccles had, in fact, been sitting in an open hutch, watching Bunty frantically rushing around. Seized with participatory ebullience, he came bounding out and ran in aimless circles around Bunty and all over the garden. I nearly died with relief. It was only then that I realised the tunnel was far too small for a rabbit to fit through: my shock had obliterated this information from my awareness.

Orkney and Paddy

The next day, there was another tunnel, large enough for a determined guinea pig to squeeze through. We filled it in. The next day, there were two more tunnels. They were inside the garden, however, and not passing under the wall. Every day, more tunnels have appeared.

We wondered what could be doing all this digging. We have a mole living under our lawn, whose molehills have been growing gradually bigger over the years. It is possible that this mole could now be of a size to make these new tunnels. Perhaps it has given up on making molehills and taken to burrowing through the flowerbeds instead. Old age does strange things to a person. Then again, the tunnels might have been made by a rat, but I wondered why a rat would tunnel under the wall when it could just climb over it. Could the guinea pigs have taken up tunnelling? Could a water vole have crossed the fields to live in our garden? Whatever it is, the guinea pigs’ feed has been going down faster than usual.

Our curiosity finally got the better of us, and Bunty set up an infra-red webcam in the garden. At eleven that night, an eye glinted within the entrance to the latest tunnel. Bunty excitedly called me over to his screen, and we watched as a furry face protruded and sniffed the night air. The mystery was solved, and here is our muesli burglar:

Zoology Student

20 Nov

In case you are thinking I am still in the Sahara, I had better start by saying I am not, and I haven’t even been kidnapped by nomads – I suppose I wasn’t their type. Also, I didn’t steal that camel in the end. There have been numerous animal-related adventures since I last blogged, but I have not had an opportunity to write about them, because – to my great delight – I have embarked on a zoology degree. This is what has been taking up all of my time since I returned to Scotland.

Here’s a photographic catch-up of our Moroccan sojourn.

After Morocco, I went by myself to the Greek island of Corfu, to visit my father and stepmother. They live in a hill village surrounded by ancient olive groves, and their internet connection is not ideal for blogging.

It was lovely to see my family this summer, but it was also lovely to get home and be greeted by all the furries at our wee cottage. They had been well looked after, but even so, the rabbit and cats came crowding round me with enthusiasm and affection when they saw me. The guinea pigs greeted me by clamouring noisily for food.

I am enjoying university immensely. It’s like being eighteen again, only with less angst and less inclination to party all night. I am fond of this graffito outside my faculty building:

"i LiKe MiCe"