Our garden is quiet and not overly manicured – or wildlife friendly, as I call it. This approach suits me: I enjoy having a garden not for the opportunity to play gardener and the resulting labour but for the strip of nature around the house. I am very happy to let nature do her thing. It is my way of being respectful of our planet.
I fervently believe that what we call “our” house, “our” garden, “our” property is not ours at all but space that we borrow from nature for a while. I hope that “my” space will return to nature in the future.
The approach has its downfalls, which, in my case, come in the form of a geriatric, hyperactive mole in one part of the garden. They say that the average lifespan of a mole is about three years but I know that the experts are wrong. My mole has been around for over ten years and it has always been the same. My molehills carry his unique signature. Or her signature; moles are notoriously difficult to sex, especially mine, which I have only seen briefly once in all these years.
In any case, I cannot do anything about it because, if I consider all points carefully, I have to conclude that the mole has more right to the land than I, the newcomer, a mere intruder.
We have come to an arrangement, the mole and I, a kind of compromise from which we both benefit: The mole does his creative landscape architecture thing and I turn a blind eye.
The RSPCA (and that new bloke off Springwatch on telly) recommend feeding garden birds throughout the year, so this is what I do. With our ruthless land grabbing, selfish attitude towards nature, we – humankind – have damaged our environment already to such an extent that many of the still surviving species have difficulties in finding not only habitat but food of the right variety in sufficient quantities at the right time of year.
The pheasants in our garden start visiting from the nearby woodlands around Christmas time every year and keep coming until around September. The year before last, they appeared on Christmas Eve.
They are wild animals and therefore very, very shy. Except for one couple, that is, a male and a female, who have no difficulties at all in understanding that I put out food and they eat it. They have also learned that I am not a threat.
At this time of year, I feed the birds around 6:30 in the morning and again in the afternoon. The other morning, I had already spotted the male pheasant in the garden, he actually ran up to me when I approached his favourite feeding spot.
“Good morning, pheasant”, I said quietly.
Food! Great and about time, too.
It was only when I could have touched him with my hand that he considered that he had been perhaps a little overly confident.
I’ll wait here then until you are gone.
“Here” was under a bush barely two metres from me. His performance that day was unusual. Normally, he keeps to a slightly more respectful distance and it is often his female, who is the first to come to the dinner table.
I am not a wildlife photographer. I lack the expertise, the experience and the equipment. I own no huge telephoto lenses and I do not hang out in camouflaged hides. To make the photograph above, I was lying in the grass, not particularly trying to be inconspicuous, perhaps five metres away from the couple.
I’ll have them eating out of my hand before the year is out.For the technically minded, the photograph of the pheasants was taken with a 300mm lens on a Nikon DSLR camera with full-frame sensor and has not been cropped.