Deterring those foxes!

Just a quick update for anyone worried about Reynard and Talbot. Our boss got some fox deterrent powder to be added to water and sprinkled around the garden. Mateo trundled out with his watering can, putting the most solution in the sandpit since they clearly like it there. On his way back from sprinkling around the rest of the garden, he passed the sandpit. One of the foxes was sitting happily in the sand, happy as Larry.

We suspect the deterrent is not effective.

For those of you getting attached to these foxes, don’t read on. Instead have a look at this fox from my garden during lockdown and then move on.

So, nature can be quite grim. And inexplicable. Don’t worry, Reynard and Talbot are still alive and harassing children, but one fox isn’t. Mateo found the head, but only the head, of a fox this morning, in the bushes. Did one of the children exact revenge on another fox? Perhaps the children were the aggressors all along?

Some of you might remember the cat’s head that Jessica found a few years ago. I think the police said that that foxes did it, but we were never satisfied with that explanation. It’s all very strange. Where did the body go?

Gangster foxes turn nasty

Some of you might remember the gangster foxes, Talbot and Reynard, at one of the large gardens where I work. Their cheeky faces won over our hearts and their tendency to creep up on children in a sinister way fired up some panic. Seems they’ve gone one step further now.

Previous blogs: Fantastic Mr Fox

Gangster foxes: Talbot and Reynard

Today my boss got a call from a parent. We have a small playground for children with a sand pit. Turns out the foxes have been jumping into the sand pit where children are playing, stealing their toys and leaping out again. They then rip up the toys in front of the children before running off.

I did suspect that the foxes were setting up a protection racket, but it looks like some of the children have refused to take part and it’s led to rivalry and the start of territory war.

‘Nice dolly you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it,’ sneers Talbot while Reynard sniggers nearby. ‘Oops!’ says Reynard as the dolly’s head is snapped off.

This is not the Beatrix Potter style story I was hoping for when I posted their photos.

I didn’t even know you could do this!

I got carried away playing with the picture I took of the spider’s web. Sorry. You can sort of see it.

I know it’s tacky virtue signaling to put heroic acts online, but some discoveries must be shared.

This morning I discovered something terrible: A spider had built a web from the fire escape leading from my flat and across the garden gate, meaning I couldn’t get out my gate to the shed. It was an impressive web too, with many circles of silver thread and many flies caught – including a number of mosquitoes, who are, quite frankly, bastards. I didn’t want to ruin this spider’s good work.

However, I needed to get my spade from the shed, so I tried to see if there was another way – leapfrog over the fence? No, will end in broken nose. Limbo under the web? No, I have no limbo skills and will only end up destroying it anyway. How about just moving one end of the web to the other side of the gate? A crazy idea, but it might just work!

So I moved my arm into the threads so that they caught on my hoody, lifted them and wrapped them around the other post of the gate. And they stayed! And they’re still there now! I didn’t even know that was possible! I’m practically a spider myself.

UPDATE…

Turns out it’s not possible.

When I went back later, the had web broken.

There’s still enough of it up that the spider should be able to salvage the flies that he’d caught, but he’ll have to build a whole new web.

I am no hero.

😔

A baby woodpecker!

So I was trundling along the path with my wheel barrow, when I saw some jays flapping around with a tufty looking bird nearby. I thought he might be a young jay, but he had a long beak, and after he turned around a few times, I saw there was a red tinge to his head and green to his body. He wasn’t fully colourful because he still had his young fluffy brown feathers, but I could see his shape was distinctively a woodpecker.

Woodpeckers are ace!

By now he had hopped a bit further on and was standing with his chest puffed out. I crept closer and took a photo. He didn’t fly away so I kept on creeping. My phone is shitty, so I knew the photos wouldn’t be great, but I kept on creeping up to see how close I could get. At one point Mike walked up from the opposite direction and saw me. He stopped where he was so he would scare my new fluffy friend away. Woody Woodpecker gave me a few more poses, hopping around before flying off.

Then I realised unfortunately that my new manager (my boss’s boss) was standing watching all this. Fortunately he thought it was hysterical to watch me sneaking up slow footstep by slow footstep, especially since from his point of view the bird was obscured and he thought I was creeping up on a tree.

‘I’m actually working very hard!’ I shouted over to him and he seemed to accept it.

Here is what the woodpecker will look like as an adult, you can see that proud pose already forming in the photo I took:

From Garden Bird

Rat cahoots

I worked with Mateo today and got to hear another strange story.

You know how a rat steals an egg? Because rats like eggs, but they can’t carry it in their paws and still walk. But I’ve seen it, what they do is get another rat. And one holds onto the egg and the other pulls him by his tail.

The image of little Edgar rat (no reason why a rat shouldn’t be called Edgar in my view) with his paws wrapped around an egg, while Bertrude rat pulls his tail over her shoulder and drags him along, is just great.

Gangster Foxes: Talbot and Reynard

When adorable foxes go bad…

After I posted about the cheeky fox at my work, Darnell and Calmgrove came up with the excellent fox names Talbot and Reynard. However it turns out that Shaily guessed where the story would go. Because the foxes (I found out there are two, conveniently since I have two names) have chosen a twisted path.

I was walking back from lunch and was surprised to see one of the foxes, Talbot I would guess, walking down the main path. Normally in daytime, when there are a fair few people about, the foxes are nowhere to be seen. Certainly not out in the sun. Then I saw that he was walking towards a toddler. Not quite stalking, but Talbot would stop every few steps and stare at the kid waddling about in a white jacket, then walk closer. This did not look right to me. Foxes don’t do that. It also didn’t look right to Jess and Mateo, who I saw were walking fast towards them.

Fox Talbot saw the two gardeners heading for him and did a few steps at a half-run, then stopped and stared at them. Then a couple more steps and then stood waiting. He didn’t seem afraid at all. When he did wander off, he sat a few metres away under a bush and had a bit of a roll around in the grass.

By now I’d made it over to the group and heard the child’s guardian explain what had been happening.

‘The foxes do come up to the kids sometimes. They’re not scared. Yesterday, one of them stole William’s ball. William chased after the fox to get it back, so the fox ran off. But then he came back with another fox, like he got reinforcements.’

I refuse to believe that Reynard and Talbot are bad foxes, they’re just misguided. But it does look like they might have set up an extortion business intimidating small children in order to take their toys.

What do we do now?

Fantastic Mr Fox

This little guy was hanging about at my work today. Excuse the crappy photos, hopefully you can still see he’s a character from an unwritten children’s illustrated book. Unfortunately Fantastic Mr Fox is already taken, so I’ll need a new title – if you’ve got any ideas??

Erk! Having looked it up to check, I’ve discovered that Fantastic Mr Fox got made into a film where the fox looks like a chewed slipper. My fox would do a way better job. Look at that quizzical smile, those bright eyes.

And here:

He’s winking!

Presumably at some point me and the fox will have a tea party together along with a cranky elf. We’ll go through a magic door, and then work out how to fly a rusty car abandoned in a field.

Trod in a bees’ nest!

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This is not as melodramatic as it may sound.

I was dead heading roses (does any gardener actually like roses? They’re shitty, fussy, spiky plants) and I stepped back and felt my foot slip into a slight hole. I walked back and looked down to see twenty or so bees come tumbling out of the hole. I was ready to run, ready for the stings, but nothing.

None of them stung me. Not a one!

They were a bit smaller than usual honey bees. At first I thought they might be hover flies, which mimic wasps, but have no sting, but they were too fluffy. My boss reckoned they might be leaf-cutter bees, which are awesome fellas.

In fact I have a theory that now many of the usual bee species are becoming extinct, leaf cutter bees (and other less common ones) are increasing in numbers to fill the space. Look out for small , neat semi-circular holes missing in leaves – that’s the leaf cutter bee.

OR alternatively, I am now Queen of the bees and none shall sting me. It is true I once stood in a swarm of killer bees (I think) and didn’t get stung. Unfortunately everything else is still attacking me and a colleague asked if I’d been bitten by a wolf because of the huge red and purple bruise that came up on my leg after getting stung by something that wasn’t a bee.

And these are the kind of rambling thoughts that gardeners have.

In other news: no sign of evil pea seedlings yet.

Have you been stung much this year?

What can I summon?

Found this in one of the gardens. It looked like someone had made a bit of a camp in between some trees and this was left in the middle. I’m not sure what it is, but it moves in an out like a pump and makes a whistly sound sometimes. I thought it might be a bird caller, but much of the time it doesn’t make a bird call noise at all, more like a wheezy gasp. Could it be a wheezy-smoker caller? After all, smokers have become pretty unpopular these days. My colleague Jessica has to walk out of sight of her block of flats to have a cigarette or her neighbours complain. Which is ironic because apparently they’ve had a number of dawn drug raids, but they still consider her to be the troublemaker to be kept at a distance.

Anyway, maybe the wheezy-smoker caller is to round up all the smokers and take them to a safe place far from where anyone else might be breathing. Harsh, I know. I’m glad I have it now and the smokers are safe.

And then, I found this too:

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I’m less confused by what this is. I reckon it’s the kind of thing a serious hiker would have. It has a thermometre on one side and a compass on the other. I’m assuming a mountain guide owned it as they led a troop of thrill seekers through the treacherous mountains of London. I only hope our plucky guide still has their machete and crampons. It’s a bleak world out there, but presumably they’ve been trained in the art of finding their way by tube.

Do you think if  I stand in Trafalgar Square tomorrow and blow it I’ll get a group of tourists to guide? And what will come if I blow the whistle and use the wheezy smoker caller at the same time?

Covidworld

So, I’m back at work and it’s great to see everyone again and be outside tackling some plants.

It’s all quite odd though, everything is not quite the same, little details have shifted. I’ll get some pictures tomorrow. It’s as if someone gave all of London a makeover. And then almost all Londoners have changed too. We hide our faces. We aren’t rushing, instead we keep our distance. No more stand on the right, walk on the left on escalators, now everybody stands. And there are police everywhere.

At work, my colleagues are just like they always were – cheery, lovable oddballs. But with longer hair. The guys have either slicked back styles or new wavy locks.

I feel like this is a puny blog, so here is a fella I read about this morning, the monkey slug caterpillar, Phobetron. They aren’t anything to do with monkeys or slugs, but they are caterpillars. Aren’t they incredible?

Click on this to go to the site I nicked it from
Definitely click on this photo to see more photos from the Maryland Biodiversity Project