“Hallo, Rabbit,” he said, “is that you?”
“Let’s pretend it isn’t,” said Rabbit, “and see what happens.”
~ A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
On our Glamorgan Bird Club trip to Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, we came across this small group of ponies. The Teignmouth District Council website reports: ‘Helping to keep the grasslands in shape, Dartmoor ponies are used in the winter months to help produce ideal conditions for rare flowers and invertebrates. These are “working”, wild animals, so DO NOT feed them or try to stroke them.’
Not having read this before we saw them, we did stroke them and, luckily, they were friendly enough, but they were much more concerned with doing their job as ‘eco mowers’ than basking in human attention.
If you don’t like rats, look away now!
While I realise that a blog about rats might not appeal to everyone, I rarely get to see or write about mammals so, when these two rats came brazenly sniffing around for the seeds I was feeding to the birds at Cosmeston, I couldn’t resist taking photos. And once I have photos, a blog shall surely follow.
These are Brown rats (Rattus norvegicus), immigrants from central Asia that arrived in Britain around 1720. Of course, I don’t mean these two individuals arrived in 1720 – rats usually only live about a year in the wild – but their ancestors were sea-going rodents that just loved to sail the oceans wide and jumped ship wherever they docked. Nowadays, rats are more settled, and they’ll live almost anywhere – houses, gardens, parks, farmlands and farm buildings – you name it, there’s probably a rat in it somewhere.
They particularly like cereals – so, my bird seed would’ve gone down a treat – but they’ll eat pretty much anything, from small birds and their eggs to molluscs and food scraps. If you’re someone who hates these much-maligned creatures, remember that they too play an important part in the food chain, in particular as food for the owls and foxes that everyone loves.
One of this week’s wildlife highlights happened last Tuesday evening …
I had been in the office volunteering all day and had been too lazy (and the weather had been too hot) to walk home, so I had an early tea then went out for a 90-minute walk. And I am SO glad I did because …
I was walking down an old railway line that’s now a foot- and cycle path when I spotted a cat intently watching something in the long grass at the edge of the path. It was tapping then jumping back, tapping then jumping back. As I approached, the cat slunk off, not pleased it had been interrupted but I’m so glad I scared it off because …
What I found in the grass was a Slow-worm (Anguis fragilis) – a young one, I think, from the colour. I only had my point-and-click camera so couldn’t get very good photos and, of course, it wouldn’t stay still. It obviously wanted to escape the cat’s attention so decided to slither across the path but it was having trouble with the asphalt and wasn’t making any headway so …
I picked it up and carried it across to the other side and let it go in the long grass on that side. Good deed done and such a special moment!