I am a terrible, horrible, clueless, thoughtless, ungrateful person.
I found the second robins’ nest today. It is in my greenhouse. It’s just in a different place in my greenhouse. And, you may ask, how did I find the new nest? By dropping a new package of pots-made-out-of-compost* on mum robin’s head. Neither of us was happy. She freaked, obviously, and then I freaked, because there was a tiny feathered rocket boomeranging around my (also tiny) greenhouse. Hey, it’s a good thing the glass is so dirty: it means she stopped, rather than slamming into it. As I stood there, feebly twitching my arms like the big dumb schmuck that I am, she got herself trapped between the front corner and the door and stayed there, fluttering up and down—rather like a very small winged cat** on a hot tin roof. I’m so sorry, I kept saying stupidly, like this would mean something to her.
At this interesting juncture the hellhounds erupted indoors, and I went round to see what reckless person was at the door.*** By the time I returned to the greenhouse, the robin had disappeared. AND THEN I DID IT AGAIN. This time she figured out where the door was . . . FRELL.
I was not entirely unhinged. I hadn’t had the presence of mind, the first time, to move the frelling package of pots, and since I can’t see back there, I was afraid that the pots were literally on top of the nest, and she wouldn’t be able to sit on it even if she wanted to. I’m still not sure, although clearly she had returned and was trying. But I did move the pots. And she was back on the nest by the time I went indoors for the last time today—there’s now a strategically arranged crack between ranks of pots where I can just see a bristly slice of nest—and the top of mum’s head. Yaay.
But this is a lousy place for a nest. Several years ago when I had my first robins’ nest in the greenhouse, while it was diabolically inconvenient because it was early in the season and slap next to my stack of plant trays—you never see a nest before it’s too late to rearrange its surroundings so that you can get at the stuff you’re going to need for the next few weeks—it was very attractively arranged in the back of a narrow cardboard box I had absent-mindedly left there. The view was excellent. This year’s first nest, while very unsatisfactory for photos, was pretty good for the show. This one is a ratbag in all categories.
But it’s in my greenhouse. You know I’ve been sulking, because here is this excellent greenhouse, with a roof and everything, and hot and cold running mealworms, and they’ve gone somewhere ELSE for their second nest? Except they haven’t. I don’t think they’ve quite had time to have a second nest, which would make this one the third; and I’ve seen two robins together several times lately, which, if they’re not trying to kill each other, means they’re nesting. But I almost didn’t buy mealworms this week. Fortunately I overcame my bad self and did the right thing. If I’d waited till today, the pet shop would have been sold out.
More baby robins, all being well. Yaaaaay.†
* * *
* These are brilliant, by the way. I use more of them every year. I was trying to find a link, but I can’t remember what they’re called, and there are gazillions of plant pots out there, and gazillions of gardening sites to sell them to you. These are not just biodegradable, they are built to be short-term and to disintegrate quietly after they, with the plants still in them, are put in the ground (or in a bigger, solider pot). The one thing you have to remember, which I never do, is to tear the top rim off when you plant them out—chances are they’ll already be starting to get sort of saggy and squatty and this won’t be difficult—because otherwise you end up with this little hairy commemorative ring around your plant in its final position, which does not contribute to the effect in any way you want. But—no root disturbance! And if you get a little careless about getting your plants put in, these pots will remind you by starting to fall apart.
** There is a large, beautiful and very annoying cat that saunters around the churchyard going ‘mine. Mine.’ Whatever. Now, the churchyard is two gardens over from my cul de sac, and that should be far enough. But apparently it isn’t. The black cat that kept trying to commit suicide under Wolfgang’s wheels used to have yowling and hissing matches under my bedroom window at generally considered unsuitable hours^, with whom I’m not sure, but then he moved, and there was a couple of years’ gap before Phineas brought the hellkitten home. We had occasional feline visitors but since the hellkitten got old enough to stake territory he’s been the only one I’ve seen in the immediate vicinity. Now the sodding churchyard cat has decided to expand his territory. ARRRRRGH. I also feel conflicted because the hellcat, despite being a member of a hated race, is my friend,^^ and it does seem to me that he’s the one with a right to call the cul de sac his domain. Meanwhile . . . catfights at 3 am. My favourite.^^^
^ which is to say that in terms of sleep it wasn’t that big a deal to me, although in terms of stop making that sodblasted noise it was a big deal.
^^ The fact that he doesn’t go out of his way to torment the hellhounds goes a long way with me.
^^^ I’ve been meaning to answer the cat-repellent suggestions. The problem is that while Third House’s garden isn’t big in any absolute sense, it’s a lot bigger than I can keep covered in citrus spray or orange peel. Sure, I can fend them off one stretch of beds, borders, hedges, driveway. . . but they just move to a different stretch. They don’t like tea leaves either, but I started to have visions of changing the pH of my soil till I could only grow rhododendrons. I can’t remember—I think it’s some kind of coleus?—there’s a plant that is sold as a cat fender-off, and yes, they avoid the plant. But it’s boring. It’s not like you want a lot of these plants all over your garden. Stuff like lion dung—which at least used to be sold packaged under a proprietary brand over here—only works temporarily: the cats figure out there’s no lion. I’ve been told by people who’ve tried that mothballs don’t work worth a damn, and that’s something else I don’t want rotting down in quantity in my soil. Sonic discouragers would, I believe, also drive the neighbourhood dogs crazy, and it’s not the dogs’ fault+. And the things that squirt water, well, I don’t want to distress any hedgehogs I might be fortunate to have in my garden despite all the frelling cats. (I assume the sonic scarers would bother hedgehogs too. And what about birds? I don’t know what their hearing range is. Supposing they want to risk the high density feline population.) Aside from the fact that it would be sure to go wrong and someone would take me to small claims court for the price of their++ silk dress.
+ Although I have exactly the same feeling about dog crap in my garden that I do about cat crap: I want to kill the human responsible.
++ Yes, probably ‘her’. But not necessarily.
*** Penelope. Just by the way.
† As it happens I had a big bloated feed-the-birds catalogue fall through the mail slot in my door today. And I was reading it.^ I have been resisting, most of my life, the Bird Feeding Trap, which is One More Thing, expensive, and tends to escalate. But . . . um. I was thinking that since robins and tits and the other little stuff are my favourites, I could get one of those feeders in a wire cage where the gaps are only big enough for the little stuff to get through. But you need a frelling PhD to figure out what to buy. There are 1,000,000,000 kinds of bird food and—I did know this—different birds eat different things. And they eat them differently—so you need like six different kinds of feeders, as well as a clean and cleanable hellhound-free space on the ground. Well, we’re not going to have six different kinds of feeders, we’re going to have like one long skinny hanging feeder in a cage, and some kind of (hanging) fat block in another cage. But my (expensive) penchant for live mealworms calls into doubt the expertise of the Bird Food Pundits: they have these titchy little trays you’re supposed to put your live mealworms in. Are they crazy? Mealworms climb. In this weather they climb like frelling monkeys. I’ve got them in a big flat-bottomed planter to keep them contained—I needed something wide enough that robins could fly in and out but high-sided enough that the mealworms couldn’t stand on each other’s heads and pole vault. And, just by the way, so much for robins being ground feeders: the mealworms have always been on my greenhouse table, which is about waist high.
I wish I knew what was going on with my bats. . . .
^ Anything to avoid working.
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