Thursday, 7 June 2012
Seeing Eye to Eye
Every day I put out food for the many wild creatures that have moved into my garden, often with a kernel of doubt that I may be creating artificial conditions and thus encouraging unnatural behaviour patterns, always with a sense of responsibility that having started this pattern I must continue it.
Wildlife does not come cheap in this place!
A wide variety of birds hang about all the time, making noisy disputes when the bird-table is topped up. I have the identifiable residents, the jackdaw who has pestered me over the past few years, and some of his flock who have distinctive white patches in their wings. I thought I had two pairs of blackbirds, but a recent wildlife programme 'Springwatch' casts doubt on this, having found that a garden may be visited by a great many more pairs that the one or two assumed by the human residents. I have thrushes and wrens and countless little brown numbers in between. I could not begin to count them, and after Springwatch I realise I couldn't estimate them either.
There are no hedgehogs here these days, which is a sad loss, and this year I have not had any starlings either, an equal loss. However, I have badgers at the bottom of the garden and they are served supper as dusk falls.
Yesterday I was at home in the late afternoon. I moved to a window to open it, and in doing so startled a fox, out in broad daylight, pathetically searching for fallen scraps beneath the bird table.
Before it bolted away it made full eye contact with me for a number of seconds.
It was a most powerful experience.
When a wild animal knows enough about you to hold that sort of eye contact there is a feeling of real communication, although whether it was fear, or challenge, or a sort of anxious request I could not tell.
I interpreted it as anxious request, because for an animal to be so near to the house, so early in the evening, it must have been desperate, starving.
The thought that there is a wild animal in my garden desperate enough to virtually beseech for help is hard to bear. Perhaps I'm being anthropomorphic, but those long seconds of eye contact have a profound effect.
It was not the animal photographed here, but a thin creature beset with mange - but the look in the eyes was the same.
So now there is at least one additional guest for supper, whose meal will be available rather earlier than the later evening service for the badgers.
I still don't know if I'm doing right or wrong, but I'm pretty sure that if I lived a few centuries ago I would be branded an old witch, living alone, surrounded by my familiars and talking to the birds.
Leslee of 3rd House Journal has written a clever and thought-producing poem, 13 Ways of looking at a Fox,which you can find 'here'.