My Favourite Window

May 26, 2013


Libby over at D-scribes has been writing about the robins nesting in her hedge. Over and over again, I am grateful, not to mention over-awed, by the wild-life that appears in my garden and around my house. Watching regulars and noticing new visitors, often feels like the greatest privilege in Life for me.

This stick insect appeared in our back porch a few days ago, probably forsaking the raspberry canes around the entrance as they loose their leaves. It's body is about three inches long and it is a native species. I have never seen them on trees or shrubs, so can't be sure if they are truly native to this area, or the offspring of some babies I released about ten years ago. They apparently like the rosaceous plants even though the rose family is not endemic to New Zealand. The trap, it seems, in having taken to an introduced plant species, is dealing with the deciduous nature of roses, raspberries, brambles et al. Come leaf-fall, they have to leave home and look for winter shelter elsewhere.

I had another go at photographing the bellbird. His shape makes a nice silhouette and his wing flashes are just visible in this photo. The bellbird seems like the fantail and tui, to have adapted well to modern gardens. They enjoy feeding on the flowers of the introduced eucalyptus, garden clematis, and ripe orchard fruits. And as I mentioned in my previous post, non-spider-proofed weather boards harbour a rich winter food source.  

These cats: they are not the best of friends, so this was a rare recent shot of acceptance if not companionship. They are both hunters. They hunt in this garden mercilessly. Aelfy, the black cat, is a mouser, which is a blessing. But he also catches skinks, ground-feeding birds and fledglings. Catkin, the tabby, who spent his first year fending for himself in the wild, is a big game hunter, though he seems less inclined to bring down hares, rabbits and poultry now that he has been neutered.  Somehow the bird population, continues to thrive in this garden of mainly introduced species. What I see is that the birds' strength is the scruffy places, the untrimmed, untamed, overgrown spinneys. Introduced gorse and hawthorn provided dense prickly havens, unappealing to cats, while the native pohuehue vine - which I curse endlessly - provides an impenetrable cat puzzle and good nesting sites. Untidy weedy overgrowth and old seed stems - that the good gardener learns to trim away - are full of insect life: good for the birds and bio-diversity in general. The lizards get half a chance in a weed bank too. 

With recent controversy over the place of cats in New Zealand, we could maybe give equal thought to how our human inclinations - affect the birds.

Gorse Ulex europeaus
Hawthorn Crataegus spp
Pohuehue, muehlenbeckia Muehelenbeckia australis


Susan Heather said...

Lovely photos - the cats look happy in each other's company even if that is not the case.

Looks like you have some sunshine down there.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

We do! It's been quite warm the last couple of days. They are a funny pair, the cats. Aelfy is supercilious and needy at the same time, sleeping through the night with one human or another; he lords it over Catkin except at feeding time - which I find very intriguing. Catkin is an adorable sweet softy. There's no guile about him at all.

Cro Magnon said...

We always had Stick Insects here in th late Summer; they turned up at the same times as the Praying Mantis. But I haven't seen any for several years; maybe OUR Tabby is responsible.

Geo. said...

Here in California, I often have a praying mantis climb onto my shoulder while I'm trimming, to hitch a ride down a row of roses. They're calm company.

libby said...

Lizard? you mentioned a lizard...not an enormous one I hope, the tiny ones I see on holiday freak me out a little bit but I am getting better with that....and cats are curious beasts aren't they?
ps thank you for the mention x

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Cro Magnon: These big ones certainly look fleshily edible for a passing carnivore.

Geo: How delightful to hear from you. I really enjoy the company of praying mantis too. One rode on my shoulder when I was riding my mower recently, only to fly down to the ground and into the path of my reversing wheels. I felt really upset at losing it that way.

Libby: The lizards are very sweet little things, brown skinks about six inches long - maybe a bit snakelike, but they do NOT hang around on bedroom walls. They bask in the sun on old tree stumps and in wood piles. Usually you only know they were there by a little rustle and a shimmer of the grass as they dash into hiding.

Joanne Noragon said...

The National Park owns much of the land surrounding us, since about fifty years ago. We moved here twenty five years ago, when park conservation was beginning to be apparent. Now it is so entrenched that we have many wild predators back in large numbers: hawks, eagles, fox, wolves, coyotes. We have one old outdoor cat left; he will not be kept in!, and our newest rescued stray is an indoor cat, for his safety.

rusty duck said...

Our birds prefer the wild places too.. and there are plenty of those (!).

I found a Long Tailed Tit's nest in a berberis yesterday, so rules can be broken. The thorns will certainly give them plenty of protection.

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

Joanne Noragon: Eagles, wolves and the rest. How wonderful to live so close to them. Your National Park sounds very successful.

I probably should have explained for my international readers, that the cat issue in NZ is unusual. Because our native wildlife is predominantly birdlife, which evolved without predators, any introduced predators - rats, stoats, ferrets, cats and even dogs - are bad news for flightless and fearless birds.

rusty duck: I can imagine your little wooded valley is a haven for all kinds of wildlife (I know it is great for mice!) Berberis - I wince just thinking about it. Hmm maybe I should plant some around here...

John Gray said...

I used to love stick insects as a child and used to keep I would run a mile if I saw one

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

And there you are John, guarding your flock with your life from a fox!