Jenny Wren And The White Hart*

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’).


One of several large shoals of tadpoles, east pond – April 2014

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.


Roach, centre

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).


Great tit chick

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).


Female Bullfinch

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.  @$*@*#%$!


A moment of roe excitement for Margaret’s rams (Cyril and Digby) – April 2014

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.’

34 thoughts on “Jenny Wren And The White Hart*

  1. Fantastic images. So many distractions from gardening. 😉 I’ve never seen a white fallow deer. There are lots of deer in the woods around here and we occasionally come across them but rarely get a chance to get a photograph. They really need to be out in the open – trees are so often inconveniently placed when trying to take a photograph. I seem to spend a lot of time at the moment trying to shoo out bees which have strayed into the greenhouse. Bees are quite stubborn I’ve found and don’t seem to appreciate my help and they would rather exhaust themselves frantically buzzing at a pane of glass. I’m wondering if I should put up one of those stripey fly screens people used to have hanging at their door. It would add a certain retro look to the greenhouse if nothing else. Have a fantastic weekend. Lou


    • Hi Lou, I spend quite a lot of time rescuing bees, butterflies and what-not from the greenhouses. I have my special pot and a piece of card left out for the purpose. And as I was crawling up to those fallow, I did think I could’ve just gone up to Richmond Park and probably walked right up to them – much easier. And drier knees too. D


  2. Hi David. This is Pam from Canada. I had 3 fawns born in my garden a few weeks ago on my birthday weekend. Not something I Will broadcast to the mayor or some others who are in favour of a cull. It was quite lovely to watch them and I feel blessed to watch and learn so much. My garden of course is covered in deer netting but luckily they are not too interested in dahlias, which are my passion. I loved the gorgeous photos of the white buck. Thank you.


  3. Why do baby Moorhens remind me of Max Wall ? Fab photos of all wildlife, especially the deer. That’s the way I want to see them too … just in photos,virtually, and not in real, plant chomping life !!


  4. Great photos there, Dave. That must have been a great week – amazing to see a white deer and I love the little mallards. A pair of mallard ducks used to come to my old school every spring to hatch their family so summer ceremonies were always to a backdrop of quacking! I’ve noticed lots of blue tits picking off the aphids on my fruit trees this year which is pretty cool and a win:win for me.


  5. Loving all the wild and not so wild life at the Priory, and great news about the pond! Nice to see you’ve introduced fish again. And isn’t it relaxing watching swim around the pond again?


  6. I have loads of deer hanging around my house, which is great until they starting nibbling under the cover of darkness. They seem to love alliums and aquilegias, dead-heading them with surgical precision. I’ve had some success with hanging up CD’s as they don’t like the shiny reflections. It does make the garden look a bit like a new-age campsite but anything to protect the flowers! Helen


    • Hi Helen, I did try petrol soaked rags to deter deer and it seemed to work. But rags dangling from branches wasn’t a great look and the petrol needed reapplying too often. I’d need a lot of CD’s around the garden to protect all the shrubs and small trees. Is Sissinghurst deer fenced? Their incursions does seem to be a seasonal problem – they haven’t been back for several weeks now. D


  7. Are you sure it isn’t a unicorn with it’s horn missing?
    fab photos as usual but I am intrigued by that very fat goldfish, I think she looks like she is going to burst soon!


    • No, it’s not a unicorn Helen (because unicorns don’t actually exist. Sorry to break that to you). I’ve been thinking the Fat One has been going to burst for several weeks now – don’t really understand why she hasn’t laid her eggs. But we will end up with a lot of fish eventually. Dave


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