Ricardo's Weekly Waffle:
"When people talk about their cat or dog they often talk about the animal‚Äôs character, its personality. Take cats for instance, whilst in most cases the pet moggy will wander around outside making every attempt to torture to death the garden robin or migrant blackcap, there are very rare instances where the family feline might have a less murderous streak and prefer to co-exist with natures creatures. This variation of character is also true of wild animals. Although its hard to decipher or notice a real difference between individual woodpigeon in a flock; which has the best personal hygiene, which is the bully, which is everyone‚Äôs friend and which prefers to stay on the outside looking in, these behavioural traits almost certainly exist. I‚Äôm inclined to say that its would be a mistake to let our selves humanise animals be they wild or domesticated, or credit them with an intelligence that they palpably don‚Äôt have, but its definitely worth avoiding the generalisation of specific types of behaviour.
Recently the ends of many of the hollow assorted stems packed into a couple of bug boxes that adorn the south east facing stone wall of my garage have been completely vandalised. One morning I went out to check the post only to find that many of these bee larva filled stems had been plucked from the sanctuary of the box and were now strewn all over the floor. The contents of several of the stems, in the form of bright yellow pollen and a single milky white larvae, were now clearly visible. The mud plugs that the parent solitary bees had so meticulously salivated across the circumference of each stem to encapsulate their offspring, had been pulverised. How depressing!
Now, there could be several culprits. The canny jackdaws that we have enticed close to the house by balancing stale bread on the ivy bound hedge might have treated the protein packed cow parsley stems as a kind of canap√©s, one of the 3 magpies that I have seen recently trying to set up home in the valley might have done the dastardly deed, or could it be the sheep in wolves clothing devilishly disguised as a harmless tree boring woody woodpecker. I‚Äôm putting my money on the greater spotted wood pecker. Having spent a reasonable amount of time recently, gazing out of windows I have noticed several of the afore mentioned hammering at the dead elms that proliferate in the woodland edge to the west of the house. They seem to enjoy the grubs they find behind bark peelings and flaky wood. Some also like baby song birds!
Just as the sun was coming up through a deep seasonal mist, a week or so ago, there a was an almighty hammering coming from the corner of the house, the dogs went loopy thinking that we had visitors, but unless someone was trying to get our attention having climbed onto the roof, something else was making the noise. This wasn‚Äôt he first time I‚Äôd heard it. As I swung the backdoor open a greater spotted woodpecker exaggerated its undulating flight as it shot into the big ash tree above the house. It had been excavating the entrance of an oak nest box I had put on the east gabble. In several places across the country this can be a real problem and metal fronted boxes are the only solution. These birds will pull a whole family of blue tits from a box if the hole can be made larger. In some instances gardeners who have entertained several different species of nesting birds which include greater spotted woodpeckers, find that only one family survive! It seems however that not all adult woodpeckers have this blood lust and whilst my particular example would have been out of luck if it was looking for chicks, it had a less than timid and downright destructive inclination. The fact this character was around at the same time as the bug boxes were sabotaged, makes me think that I‚Äôve got my culprit.
I‚Äôve subsequently popped the stems back in the boxes and covered them with a stiff wire mesh. Hopefully some of those prize pollinators will make it through. I‚Äôll keep them better protected from now on."