Monday, 6 December 2010
Walking in a Winter Wonderland
Earth stands hard as iron, water like a stone, and the solitary heron steps its cautious path across the deep-frozen lawn.
Always solitary, always cautious, creeping like a badly-furled umbrella away from the pond, knowing it to be yet another fruitless journey, yet another waste of precious energy.
On the far side of the lawn it heaves itself into the grey air, a metallic flopping bird against a cruelly metallic sky.
I have pangs of conscience.
We created a wildlife garden, deliberately attracting creatures to come and live near us. We created cosy little habitats, log piles for the wood lice, small woven roosts for the wrens, a pond for countless insects as well as fish and frogs. There are little houses for hedgehogs, nettles for butterflies, thick hedges for bird shelters, ivy on the walls, roses round the door.
I put out food, all the time, seeds and nuts and chunks of fat.
The heron came regularly to the pond to pick out a rudd or two. Stocking the pond with self-renewing native fish is the equivalent of putting other food on the bird-table.
Attracting birds to the bird-table creates the equivalent supply for buzzards and sparrow hawks.
You can't really pick and choose the visitors to a wild-life garden.
You supply bounty, free for all.
The garden becomes over-populated as a result.
Perhaps those who should have gone somewhere warmer have stayed around, seduced by the ready supply of food?
Perhaps too many have bred, reproduced themselves over-enthusiastically and unrealistically?
Do creatures become over-dependent on my generosity, and it is really generous or a form of self-indulgence?
Robins look good on Christmas cards, but are unpleasantly determined creatures in real life. If food runs short they will fight to the death for it.
The blue tits and great tits are still coming to the bird-table and the food holders, but I haven't seen a wren for days now, nor the long-tailed tits who daily came in a chattering, dipping family flock.
Have I created a false haven and lured them to a death of cold and starvation?
I pick up the ski poles and venture out to the shops.
I am going to buy sardines for the heron.
Right or wrong?