Water quality in the east pond has recovered. Heavy winter rain has flushed out any remaining sewage, bleach and bath-suds. (A cowboy plumber, working in 2008, patched the soil pipe from the main bathroom into the drains carrying rainwater to the pond, see – ‘A Mild Sense Of Panic’).
In my first two years at the Priory, there were plenty of fish in the pond including at least one enormous carp: they all died. In early May this year, encouraged by the sheer number of healthy looking tadpoles, I thought it time to re-introduce a few fish. I bought half a dozen goldfish and released them into their whole new world.
Word spread about the village (not a lot happens in this neck of the woods) and I was offered lots more fish. Having outgrown their small garden ponds, a further twenty goldfish and five roach arrived.
One of the goldfish is a pregnant Graf Zeppelin. Soon, there will be an explosion in numbers – just look at the size of her. Either that or she really likes her food.
I think the pond is deep and wide enough with sufficient plant cover, to give refuge from marauding herons.
Now, each time I walk past, I pause and watch ‘my’ fish – they are quite mesmerizing. Just what I need: another distraction from doing gardening. After the cramped confines of a garden centre holding tank or a small garden pond, I suppose they can’t believe their luck. (Though most fish believe in predetermined fate rather than luck).
I mentioned recently that we had mallard ducklings for the first time in several years.
Great news. But I’m sorry to say that the two I photographed in late April disappeared within a few days. I can hope that the mother took them across the meadow, down to the river and away. I can hope. (It’s more likely that either a rat, fox, crow, magpie, moorhen, mink or hawk had them).
There are however plenty of other youngsters about: fearless robin, blue and great tit chicks are a common sight in May and June.
And moorhens too.
They loiter beneath the bird feeders,
waiting for manna scattered by profligate great spotted woodpeckers (who have no conception of the cost of birdfeed).
On hot days, I leave the greenhouse doors open – with predictable consequences. Once or twice a week I have to rescue a trapped bird.
This is only the second time I’ve seen bullfinches at the Priory. Because they feed on tree buds and especially fruit buds, some gardeners consider them a pest. But not me. The male, of course, is far flashier with his bright pink breast. Close up the female is a subtle beauty and not as dowdy as I had thought. After a couple of snaps, I gently shooed her outside.
In the workshop, a wren has raised a brood. When I first saw this chick, I thought it a bat; clinging to a brick wall, Spiderman like.
Mostly the chicks wait patiently and silently up on the rafters for the parents to bring food,
which they do through a missing pane of glass.
And look what they feed their young – a beak-full of aphids. How many insect pests must a pair of wren parents catch? Here’s proof (if needed) that encouraging bird life into your garden has considerable benefits.
Less tangible are the benefits brought by deer into the gardens. Here’s another shot of a roe buck I chased across the lawn a few weeks ago.
They have done serious damage on their forays this year: nibbling roses and clematis on the rose tunnel, grazing on shrubs and stripping the bark of one of my young silver birch. @$*@*#%$!
Still, outside the gardens, I like to see them.
The other day a small herd of fallow deer were nearby in one of Margaret’s fields. They are almost invisible from distance – often it is just the flick of a white tail that gives them away.
I sneaked up on soggy knees and got reasonably close.
Though they saw me, they didn’t flee. I was upwind so they didn’t get a whiff of creeping gardener. This was a relief as I particularly wanted to see this one:
a white buck.
The antler stumps show it’s a buck; female fallow don’t have antlers.
Deer are culled in the valley. Sorry if that upsets you but there are no wolves to check their numbers. Hunters sometimes favour a white one as they act as a herd marker. It’s pale colour is far easier to spot from a distance; leave the white alive and shoot the dark and speckled.
Good news for the former, bad news for his companions.
Increasingly unsettled by my presence, the deer drifted away into the woods by the river and disappeared from view. I felt privileged to have seen a white fallow; they’re not particularly rare but I hadn’t seen one before. Have you?
* I should have called this post ‘Jenny Wren and the White Buck.’ Male fallow deer are bucks not harts. In the UK, harts are specifically male red deer over five years old. But I preferred the Brothers Grimm-ness of ‘Jenny Wren and the White Hart.’