June 25, 2014

Missed photo ops and other critter interactions

 

So my pale blue and white floral cotton jeans are in the washing machine.  Today I’m wearing a pair of pale khaki light cotton jeans.  Why do clothing manufacturers seem to think that small children stop being sticky and dogs stop having muddy feet and we all stop being clumsy just because it’s SUMMER?  Pastels are overrated.  At least below the waist.  I even used a proper mop on the kitchen floor this morning before I let the menagerie out on the theory that at least I won’t get dirty knees from kneeling on it.  Until everybody has gone out into the courtyard and tramped what they find there indoors again which is why kneeling on my kitchen floor generally produces dirty knees.  I was playing our standard morning maniacal tug of war with the hellterror* AND DISCOVERED A SPOT OF BLOOD ON MY PALE KHAKI LEG.  . . . And could find no trace of bloodshed on either the hellterror** or me.  So clearly it was just a random drop of blood coalescing out of nothingness by the irresistible attraction of a pair of clean pale khaki trousers.  Sigh.  Washing machine and spot remover.

Then while I was chopping veg for the hellterror’s breakfast*** I was gazing out the window while the hellterror in question twined around my ankles like a cat, hoping for dropsies.  And lo and behold there was daddy robin and two fledglings variously perched on the suet feeder.  Daddy robin can just stretch his neck through the squirrel-discouraging wiring to reach the fat-with-dead-bugs slab, yum—I think I’ve told you before that the wire cage is supposed to let small birds through but my resident robin is about half the size of a hellterror.  Of course by the time I got the hellterror fed—once you are clearly getting a hellterror meal you had better not stop till this task is completed†—and could fetch my camera the robins had left the feeder and were sprinting about the garden, but I’m glad to see that there was some baby-robin action here this year, and the way they were behaving I suspect the nest is tucked into my jungle somewhere.  The parents scorned my greenhouse after all the excitement last year with the wall falling down and the weeks of strange men and barrowfuls of mortar.  Enough to put any reproductively-minded robin off I’m sure.  Maybe next year.  I have a bit of greenhouse shelf permanently sacrificed to the possibility of a bird’s nest.

But the truly tragic photo op miss was a couple of days ago at the mews.  Wolfgang and I drove in to discover Peter’s next door neighbours staring fixedly at the brick wall the mews, and Peter’s cottage as number one, is built against and out of, and which is covered in roses.  Wolves? I inquired hopefully.  No, no, they said, a song thrush is shepherding her just-fledged babies on an excursion.

Sure enough there were three little floppy-fluttery things and mum having a shrieking meltdown.  And as I stopped to watch, one of them took waveringly to the air, zigzagged vaguely for a second or two, decided that I had a safe, tree-like look about me . . . and landed on my butt.  A baby bird weighs zilch but I felt its wings, and I could feel the faint scrabbling as it got at least one foot in my hip pocket.††  Mum was having a total heart attack in the shrubbery and the neighbours were going off in conniptions.  Har de har har.  The fledgling got its breath back and decided a spot of mountaineering was in order and started clambering up my back.  I bent over because I’m a very nice, cooperative tree.  It was a hot day and I was wearing a very thin cotton tee shirt and the tiny claws prickle.  Peter heard the commotion and opened the door, Fledgling A launched a dive off my back . . . and Fledgling B, not to be outdone, took to the air in its turn and flew through Peter’s door.

Whereupon we had shrieking mum in the shrubbery and shrieking baby frantically boomeranging around the front hall and trying to cram itself into nonexistent cracks in the stairs.  You know how you’re always afraid of hurting them?†††  So it took me several tries to get hold of it in a way I thought wouldn’t damage the little idiot—and I remember Penelope, who was a bird ringer in her day, saying that if you get them gently but firmly around the body with their wings trapped and just their heads sticking out, they’ll quiet down.  WHY?  But this one did just that—teeny heart going so fast it was nearly a buzz—and I’m muttering, Don’t die of shock!  Don’t die of shock!, and I put it carefully down on the top of the water butt, which is quite a substantial space if you’re not much bigger than a bumblebee, and mum yelled at it to stop messing about and come home, and it did.  The third fledgling had spent all this time staying obediently put in the shrubbery and it’s not going to have any stories to tell its grandchildren.

However nobody whipped out their smartphone and took a picture.  But I can at least tell you about it.

* * *

* Speaking of photo ops.  I should figure out a miner’s-helmet camera deal so as to get a close-up shot of bull terrier playing tug of war, with the little pointed ears flat back in intensity, the little forehead furrowed in concentration, the little evil eyes gleaming and the jaws of death clamped for glory around the Yellow Rubber Thing.  It is an awesome sight.

** Who was of course happy to be rolled around for examination.  All rolling and rubbing is good to a hellterror.

*** She gets veg in her meals because it means more food.  If I was just giving her wet food and kibble there would be less food.  More food is always good, like rolling and rubbing is always good.  Rules of life if you’re a hellterror are blissfully simple.

† Hellhounds of course would be saying, mount an expedition to the Antarctic before we get fed?  Great.  Don’t hurry back.

†† Usefully pre-flattened by hellterror hind feet.

††† I’ve told you about trying to catch an escaped lamb, haven’t I?  This was out in the wilderness with no obvious farmer to apply to.  I tied the hellhounds up at one end of the fence and started driving it toward them, assuming that it would not want to go that way and I could get hold of it.  I did get hold of it—mum on the other side of the fence having an ovine heart attack, which seems to be the fate of mums—but lamb skin is vastly bigger than the lamb, like puppy skin, I was afraid of hurting it . . . and it got away.  I did find a farmer to tell however.

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