I am blessed to be able to live at Hermiston, and my home hosts a vast variety of wildlife including:
|Magpies||Jackdaws||Carrion Crows||Blue Tits|
|Woodpeckers||Wood Pigeons||Ring Neck Doves||Heron|
|Sparrow Hawks||Goshawks||Buzzards||Barn Owls|
I moved to the countryside 20 years ago and quickly realised that nature
takes care of the fields, as all wildlife is kept in balance. In the garden, I
learned to keep the feeding of wildlife to a strict regime whereby food
placed on the ground is quickly eaten by the ground feeder birds and the
nut and fat ball feeders on the stands are carefully monitored for signs
of rats who come up from the canal in bad weather, especially heavy
rain. Unfortunately, rats can jump several feet to the bird feeders.
They can climb trees, bushes and even the bird feeder stands. Being very
much smaller than squirrels, rats can easily get to the nuts in a
When rats appear, even just one, I am forced to remove all food for several days whereby they seek other food sources. If rats breed, they invariably breed in large numbers, especially if there is a large and regular food source. They are highly intelligent, the youngsters are very cute and I can understand why people keep a domestic rat as a pet.
Crows and the Buzzard
One dawn morning in December 2017 I was out in the fields feeding the carrion crows who had become used to me and I was putting out their usual cut bread and mince morsels, when suddenly, a couple of feet away from me a scrawny buzzard landed at my feet and began to eat the bread and the mince. The crows seemed to realise that the buzzard was weak and pecked at its rear feathers in an effort to chase it away. To my surprise the buzzard remained and continued to feed.
One of my crows with his eye on me and the camera -
The buzzard on a dry stone dyke at the edge of the back field -
The buzzard high in the trees above the garden in the autumn months -
I read up on buzzards and discovered that they had a very high
death rate during the winter months. Anyway, to cut a long story short,
the buzzard visits every winter and remains until late March. She is fed
a chicken leg every morning and waits at dawn on a nearby tree for me to
throw it on the grass. She is magnificent, as she glides down, sometimes
landing on the chicken leg for a few minutes before grasping it in her
talons and flying off; sometimes she swoops and lifts it during flight. Of course she has filled out and is healthy and ready to breed
every spring. One year she placed her young offspring on a tree in the garden
for a few weeks, like a crèche, and
its never ending cries to be fed were deafening.
I have a few squirrels who visit me in the garden. They are hand tame and I hand feed them mixed nuts but I limit their food because in the past they have bred to the amount of food available. The goshawk and the buzzard help to keep their numbers down.
Sitting on top of a gnawed wooden chair - those pleading eyes -
It is a huge mistake to feed squirrels too much food because they breed like rats if there is a constant food source. These days, I limit their food -
A young squirrel inside my woodpecker friendly, squirrel proof bird feeder -
I caught this little chap a couple of times by quickly popping a plastic
bag up and around the feeder. Trapped inside the feeder he squealed like
a stuck rat but eventually I let him free and away he went at a fast
rate of knots, unharmed. I figured he would never come back - not a bit
of it, he was back the next day and inside the feeder again. After
catching him again, I gave up and let him do his thing. Thankfully, he
outgrew the feeder as he fattened up on the nuts.
There are numerous woodpeckers at Hermiston and it is a joy to watch them feeding their young from the nut feeders. It is important to use a feeder that can accommodate a woodpecker getting his beak to the nuts but this feeder below lasted only a few weeks before the squirrels managed to break the porcelain base.
This little woodpecker was hand fed and raised by me. He was being attacked in my garden by two magpies when he was a baby and I chased them away. He could not fly and normally, I would let a mother find her young but not this time, because the magpies were around to finish him off. I decided to raise him on nuts and live maggots. I endured several weeks of his screeches at dawn to be fed live maggots and many a sharp peck on my hands. I taught him to feed from a nut feeder in the house and I would hold him by his legs and let him flap his wings until he got them stronger. He never became tame and would peck me at every given chance. Eventually, I let him fly in the house with all the curtains closed to block the windows and I put the house lights on so he could see where he was going. Finally, he was strong enough to set free and he flew across the garden, straight to the garden nut feeders -
In my 20 years at Hermiston, I have witnessed many foxes come and go. Every spring when the young rabbits appear in the garden and the fields, the fox pups emerge and usually there are around three or four in the litter. They are small bundles of fur and light biscuit coloured with black tipped ears. They make a hell of a din when scrapping for food from their mother and if mum gets a large piece of meat, she will give it up when approached by a pup. There is always one pup that emerges first, along with mum and a few days later the rest of the pack appear.
I have always put food out for the foxes at night, usually two hours after dusk and they get the best of meat and dry food for dogs, not the cheap crap stuff for dogs that can bring on ill health. I feed them through the winter months and into late spring, a couple of weeks after the pups have weaned. Sometimes, I sit nearby and watch their antics but they are always wary of me, especially the pups. For the last 3 years I have been feeding an old fox who has a busted jaw and a permanent limp. Her tongue hangs out of one side of her mouth and she has to eat with her head tilted horizontal to the ground. Like the buzzard she first appeared beside me one night, very ill looking, and barely alive. We have a great relationship and she always waits for me at night and eats just a few feet away. I think she likes me to hang around near to the food, to keep any other foxes at bay until she has eaten. If I was not there, she probably would be chased away by the others. She gets fed 365 nights a year and she is now well filled out.
A young fox in the middle field -
A mother fox in the stable yard fattening up on handouts for the winter months -
A frequent visitor to my garden but she never catches the squirrels or the pheasant -
Another fox on seeing me at the patio window -
A view of the garden pond -
Two visitors to my pond who have successfully produced frog spawn -
This hen pheasant enjoys visiting the garden pond for a drink and like the cock pheasant below, she likes the seed that the small birds enjoy -
Another visitor to the garden - a cock pheasant
The heron sitting on my coach house roof loves looking down at the fish in the pond -
And foraging for frogs in the flooded bottom field -
I have resident rabbits that live under my garden huts -
A butterfly on the garden buddleia -
Whenever I am working in the garden, a robin appears
See if you can spot the treecreeper in the tree bark -
A young bird in the garden begging for food -
Images of a rare nuthatch on the garden patio and in the garden
Even the seabirds visit the garden
A storm light view of my lower field -
A pied wagtail on the middle field fence -
Summer - My horses in the lower field -
The canal -
Dusk at Hermiston - taken from my stable yard -
Swallows on a fence in my fields, a mother feeding her youngsters -
Some winter views of my fields -
Young carrion crows on my field fence with their mother. The red image that appears in the background is one of my horses wearing a red coat -
The house cats having a snooze in the garden (just kidding) -