Monday, 30 April 2012

Nature, red in tooth and claw

Tennyson, from In Memoriam. I've had a good deal of it today.  At my desk in the morning, I was suddenly aware of a terrific twittering.  Blackbirds have been nesting in the clematis.  Now the parents were dashing about frantic, their tails all ruffled and splayed, up and down and in and out and around, and then suddenly, horribly, a magpie emerged from the clematis and made off.  I went into the garden to see if i could see anything of the nest, couldn't, returned indoors, and the next time I looked out I saw two chicks, almost fully fledged - almost.  One hopped away, I didn't know where.  The other was motionless.  But breathing.  I examined it.  It seemed to have had its eyes removed.  It was hobbled.  Could not move.  I rang a friend who told me to drown it.  I filled a watering can with water, put on a pair of rubber gloves, picked up the poor thing and drowned it.  It struggled mightily, for much longer than I thought reasonable.  I heard myself saying, over and over again, "oh dear".

We've had a lot of mice. I finally discovered, while looking for the gloves, that they had gone into the place where we keep the dog's treats.  We have put poison down.  At the bottom of the chest of drawers I found a dead mouse.  It followed the dead chick into the bin.

A chick reappeared.  Two chicks.  Three.  Fat, motionless and every now and then a hop, like a clockwork toy that has wound down almost entirely.  We moved them back under cover of the deep clematis and surrounded them with garden chairs in the hope that the magpie would not be able to get through.  A little while later we found they had moved back to where we had moved them from.  Now one had somehow hopped onto the top of the front fork of a bicycle.  Every now and then I heard the dry unpleasant clack of a magpie and went out to shoo it ff.

The doorbell.  The next door neighbour informs us that he has had a large fox in the garden.  i thank him.  Within half an hour I see a large fox on the garden wall.  Looks healthy and young and ready for chicks.  The poor parent birds, which have been feeding their chicks constantly when not on guard against the blasted magpie, now fall again into mad cheeping and twittering and dashing from bough to bough.  Poor buggers.  Magpies and foxes, not to mention a curious Tibetan terrier (who nevertheless doesn''t much like the weather).

A mouse runs from under the sofa to the fireplace in the sitting room.  Night falls.  I have left every light on in the hope that the foxes / magpies / stoats / rats etc will think twice about going for our chicks, but i think there is little hope for the little blighters despite the brave and tireless work of their parents in defending them.  All horribly sad.

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