Monday, August 2, 2010

Garden Parties

Another thing that populates the garden at this time of year is dormice. They aren’t really mice at all, belonging to a separate family. These, I think, are Glis glis. They have masked faces and bushy tales and no fear of humans. If you set a trap for them they are likely to wander up and ask you what it’s for, and then go in to see how it works. The reason we sometimes set traps for them is partly to do with their habits if they get inside the house, but in fact has more to do with the hunting instincts of much of the company.

Last night one of these creatures, who we often watch running around the garden at night, up and down trees and along flowerbeds, even up the backs of the chairs we’re sitting on, was seen to have a particular interest in getting in through the kitchen window through the medium of a shutter (the same one the birds nested in a few posts back), probably because the ham was just inside (note to those deploying mousetraps: forget cheese, what all these creatures will sell their grandmothers for is bacon fat).

Brisk debate led to the conclusion that this must be stopped. The subsequent action involved a broom, an airgun and a number of stones, occupied an entertaining 15 minutes or so, and ended with the humiliation of the marksman, a broken window caused by a sister-in-law whose ability to miss several square yards of wooden slats from a distance of some eight feet was really quite remarkable, and a robust, hale and highly amused rodent thanking us all for the workout before going about its business. For the benefit of the X-Box generation, this is known as ‘making your own entertainment.’

About once a month the females come into heat, and for one night the garden is alive with the things, running, climbing, chasing and screeching up, down, over, under, through, along, around and across every object in the place, including ourselves, in pursuit of the more appealing young lady dormice, who, as is the custom among those without a Y-chromosome, like to play hard to get. Presumably, in the end they get got, but it all takes time and provides drama.

Last year, one moonlit night I persuaded Mrs Hickory to take a walk into the woods, to sit for a couple of hours by a clearing with a (man-made) watering-hole, to see what the night-life in the hills was like. For two hours we listened to squeaks, coos, caws, screams, screeches and howls from invisible wildlife, saw a couple of rabbits poke their ears out briefly, and once watched an owl of some description fly low over the open ground before disappearing among the trees.

That was that, so we eventually gave up and returned to the house, where it turned out the dormice were having their monthly party, and the action in the garden was non-stop. We had been at the wrong theatre.

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