The day started with a walk by the sea. There was a haze that cleared and yielded intermittent golden hour moments of timeless beauty.
Now it’s grey and overcast as I type overlooking a pair of bird feeders hanging in the neighbour’s garden. I can see that the magpies, pigeons and squirrels are too big to get at the nuts behind the mesh.
One magpie is holding onto the mesh with its strong talons. It’s flapping hard. I realise the corvid is clever enough to be flapping its wings in reverse to create downward pressure that could break the feeder free.
The squirrel appears from time to time, wraps itself around the feeder, its prehensile tail looped on the gibbet arm above.
The pigeon takes a low energy approach and forages on the ground below as does our rat.
Our rat has been resurrected yet again. Cats may have nine but our rat seems to have an infinite number of lives.
Having seen the rat, I look to the hedge by the back door and see a tunnel has reappeared. It’s beside the manhole cover, a rat tunnel that I’ve filled many times and again, it has been reopened. No number of local cats seems to overcome the determination of our rat to survive each winter. Rat is singular because we don’t want to admit there’s ever more than one. Our rat seems to come up from the sewer and from time to time, gets into the wall of the house. It dies, from time to time, under the floor of the house and the stench of its deaths can last several weeks. Then, decayed beyond detection, it runs behind a wall and we realise our rat is back.
It has stolen apples from our tree. It has tunnelled in several places in the garden. It forages in our neighbours gardens and homes. And they often kill it but for our rat, death seems to be a temporary inconvenience.
It eschews the cheese and honeyed bread on baited traps, preferring to eat the insulation from the heating and gas pipes under our floors. It knows to avoid the poisoned rat motels under the hedge and in the flower bed. It seems to be insensitive to the ultrasonics screeches and electromagnetic fuzz from devices that are guaranteed to repel it.
Once, just once it took some bait the rodent expert advised we hang by string in the manhole inspection cavity of the sewer. That was a few years ago but the rat was wiser after resurrection and never took another.
We’ve had the pest controllers to the house many, many times. Now, since we agree there is only ever one rat, we’ll recharge the motels with the blue tablets that bring horrific death to an animal that unfortunately, is itself a horrid threat to the comfort of our lives.
As I continue to type, I can see there are 22 goldfinches in the denuded tree at the back. They watch over each other as the charm take turns to feed in the neighbours garden.
The clever magpie has flown to a branch higher than them and so the charm disperses. This is cyclic. The charm returns every two or three hours, more often a dozen than a score.
I’m keeping track of the garden birds in the Irish Garden Bird Survey this winter. BirdWatch Ireland have been running the survey for 30 years and anyone can participate.