However, even after all this graft, as anyone with a garden will confirm, we find we still have so much to do to improve it, like we've hardly started, which is good news because we love gardening and all the rewards this brings into our lives.
We love it in the spring and summer of course, though almost as much in the autumn and winter, so we thought we might just celebrate some of the wildlife characters that have honoured us with their presence over recent years, especially those that have trusted us so much that they allow us to share their space. There's a whole lot of magic out there, whatever the weather or season and making our wildlife welcome is the ultimate reward.
First up we've chosen our tame cock pheasant which stayed around for more than two years before disappearing, maybe into a casserole, though not ours I hasten to add. Yes, I know they are non-native birds [along with his friend the exotic mandarin duck] but pheasants are really colourful and when he trusted us enough to eat out of our hands we had to give him a name … “Prince Wilhelm the Second”!
No, don’t ask me why but he was so regal that it seemed appropriate … and he was number two because we had another tame cock pheasant before him who eventually went awol. Both were great characters, befriending all our other visitors and roosting in the garden trees.
One summer he managed to ‘pull a bird’ and his displays were most impressive, walking beside her with his gorgeous plumage spread out fan like in its finery. She didn’t seem too impressed, eating instead our precious snakes-head fritillaries in the wild flower meadow. I called her "Princess" but Sue was so incensed that she gave her the name “Dinner” and she nearly did end up in a casserole. However, we were very sad when they both disappeared one Autumn, just after the shooting season started on a nearby estate.
We have dug six ponds through which flow a stream so next up are some water loving mallards that have also earned names, two males that go by the names of what else … “Bill and Ben” along with their lady “Betsy”. They’ve been a trio for years, happily living together from Spring to Autumn, though during the mating season it's a bit of a bun fight. They sometimes raise a brood of ducklings that are like the ten green bottles, disappearing one by one.
We've had other predators in the garden this autumn and winter, several otters thanking us for having wildlife in our ponds, tasty fish!
Any story about favourite garden birds surely has to include a robin and we have two such red breasts at present, trained initially to feed out of our hands. No, I don't have any pics as I didn't want to spoil the moments when it happened and frighten our new recruits.
Their behaviour suggests they are mother and daughter, cooperating at first but then competitive and they have now set up separate territories in the garden, still almost hand tame and responding to my constant chatter to them by singing loudly close to our faces. When digging, the little female suddenly appears a foot or two away, even landing on my arm a couple of times and sings at us even more vehemently when I keep asking ‘how are you little one'.
It's one of many rewards for making all our wildlife welcome and talking to the animals doesn’t get any better than when they answer you back! Here's our 'Little One', chattering away to Sue in the veg plot.
We'll keep on working hard to attract yet more species into the garden, especially the bees and butterflies that we so badly need in our lives, then we'll sit in the sunshine with a cup of tea ...