March 2010 - Problem Wildlife

Pheasants feeding








Winter feeding pheasants in Lin's garden


There was sunshine today, one of those rare occasions this winter. I wandered around the garden looking at the decimation that had been caused by local wild life. Wild resident rabbits, not content with eating grass, had destroyed many plants, and not content with foliage had gone for the roots. Dilemma – do I get rid of the rabbits? I suppose I could always get someone to shoot them for me, or try catching them in humane traps using carrots as bait, put wire mesh round the whole garden (this would need to be about 4 foot high and dug an additional foot into the ground) or I could let the local fox keep the population down (we have at least one which visits the garden every night). In addition I could grow plants that rabbits in theory don’t like to eat (geraniums, heathers, ferns, foxgloves appeared resistant last year, but bedding plants are definitely out).

It’s not only rabbits that are being destructive. Pheasants (we have about 20 regulars to the garden) had dug into the grass under the bird feeders in the hope of extra food – the lawn will never be the same again. In my wander round the garden I find a pile of blue tit feathers near the bird feeders where a sparrow hawk had found an easy meal (I wish birds of prey restricted themselves to pigeon, we have so many of those). One of the sheds where the birdseed and mealworms are kept has been taken over by mice over wintering. I opened the shed and was hit by their distinctive smell and their droppings which appeared to be on every surface. Even though the mice cannot get to the birdseed (kept in large covered bins) or mealworms (kept in an old plastic tray covered with an ice cream tub) they still try. I suppose I should be glad they are not rats. As I continued round the garden, joy of joys, I found snowdrops, aconites and early crocus, all enjoying the winter sun and promising spring round the corner. Interestingly the rabbits have left these alone as well.

I pondered on all these things and made a decision. I shall leave the rabbits to the local fox, the pheasants will be gone in the spring as food becomes available elsewhere, the sparrow hawk has as much right to a meal as the other birds that visit the garden, and I shall grow plants that are rabbit ‘resistant’ – the RHS website has a huge list. I shall miss the bedding plants but may be able to isolate a few areas with chicken wire. The mice – well there is another dilemma. 

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