Much of it is spectacular – and welcome: goshawks buzz through the woods, tawny owls fill the nights with hooting and badgers trundle up and down the lane as if they want to dance in our headlights. We drive very slowly at night.
Of the mammals alone, I’ve seen shrews, mice, rats, rabbits, grey squirrels, foxes and bats. Then there are 18 species of butterfly and 58 species of bird, three amphibians as well as slow worms and grass snakes. And that’s just in three years of living here… who knows what else is to be found and every day is exciting.
But some encounters are more challenging… Some are downright irritating and damaging. Here’s my top 10 list of painful wildlife encounters and how I’ve learned to cope:
At 10, that garden regular, the slug – or should I say all veg-munching slug species. They get everywhere, climbing the equivalent of their Everest to reach precious purple sprouting broccoli seedlings. I’ve dented their numbers with beer traps. Here’s a line up of the usual mucuspects
At 9, thieving rats. Stop stealing the chickens’ food. Chickens – stop letting the rats eat your foot. A better feeder has helped and the rats have disappeared.
At 8, the cabbage white butterfly. I love the adults but those meddling kids… I’m hoping to thwart the annual brassica massacre by netting our cabbages at last.
At 7, another cabbage thief – that little blue waitcoated b*****d Peter Rabbit. I with Mr Macgregor on this. Hands off my veg you leaf thief. Still, rabbits do taste delicious and I know a very handy man with a .410.
At 6, making molehills out of Welsh mountains, it’s the mole. We have a lovely flat lawn as a terrace on the hillside. Correction, we had a flat lawn. Now it’s mini mole alps. Still, I’m told mole tunnels aerate the soil. I never knew boring could be so interesting. Let’s hope they get bored and move on.
At 5, it’s another insect – the common wasp. They get in wellies, garden gloves and bedrooms and the sting is incredibly persistent. Listen, I’ll do a great PR job for you in the magazine but stop stinging me and making nests in the chicken coop.
At 4, the mice in the attic. They scritch and scrittle all night long – and seem immune to traditional mice traps. And they eat through the wiring and our precious insulation. With great sadness, we’ve had to put poison down to stop the short circuits. Sorry mice.
At 3, you ain’t from round here are you boy? Yes, I’m talking about you Sciurus carolinensis – the grey squirrel imported from North America 150 years ago. Those peanuts are for the birds…
Squirrels I’ve found are delicious stewed and are easy to pick off with an air rifle. There is also an unlimited number.
At 2, Not wildlife but escaped sheep from neighbouring farms. Yes, come on in and help yourself to the remains of our lawn. And thanks for the great green mushy turds… In the country, never leave any gates open.
At 1 – and it’s been number one for two year’s running. A crow. Just one singular, unholy, Edgar Allen Poe cast-off corvid.
It’s got an unusual caw for a crow – a strangled high-pitched carrrr instead or corrrr. And it’s got an unhealthy obsession with it’s own reflection: Narcissus meets Freddy Kruger. It attacks windows all over the house, smearing them with its droppings and, sometimes, its blood (see above). It’s blood for goodness sake! And it’s destroying the precious new paintwork.
Crow – you need help. Any one got any tips that don’t involve the air rifle?