Friday, 28 March 2014


We really do not deserve to get on. As I am sure you will remember, we moved in on the Monday before last. Well, last Monday, a week later, we realised that the door from the sitting room into the garden was STILL unlocked. I say 'still' because we have been in and out lots of times but neither of us thought about locking it. Luckily nobody had tried it or . . .

This reminds me of a similar happening at our old home. There the front door was very visible from the road and we came back after being away for most of the day (we had been down in Cornwall - this was when Marcia was writing Echoes of the Dance) to find it not only unlocked but wide open. Then there was the time that Marcia left her handbag in the porch on the windowsill in full sight. As I said, we really do not deserve to get on.

You will not be that surprised to hear that one of the first jobs was, I felt, to put up a bird table. To be a little more accurate, to make a bird table and fix it to a fence post that a kindly removal man had rammed into the bank behind the house where Marcia can see it when she is working and we can both see it when we are in the sitting room. From there being only one stray blackbird that looked in now and then (encouraged by Marcia throwing odd bits and pieces out for him) within a day the garden became very busy. Regular visitors include the blackbirds (obviously a pair). Blue tits, great tits, coal tits, dunnock, house sparrows, a chaffinch and a greenfinch. We have heard a great spotted woodpecker drumming down on one of the trees by the River Dart (which is only a couple of fields away) so I have high hopes that we shall soon see them on the nuts here.

Staying on the nature theme, we had been out in the garden doing a little cleaning up and had returned to the kitchen. There, on Marcia’s arm, was a ladybird. Now, you will remember that on the blog of 13 March I put up a photograph of our first Dartington ladybird. Well, that one was a native known as the Seven-Spot Ladybird but the one here is, unless I am mistaken and I hope I am, a Harlequin. I put it that was because that is quite bad news.

A little out of focus, I fear. The beetle was on Marcia's sleeve and I was able to get it onto a piece of paper before grabbing a camera and taking the picture. As always, you hit the button immediately (just in case) and was only just in time: it flew away before I had time to do anything else.
We have forty-six species of ladybird here in the UK – there are about five thousand worldwide and I think well over four hundred in the US (where I think they are called ladybugs) so we have quite a small number by comparison. The Harlequin is not a native in either the UK or the US and is proving to be rather a nuisance. It was deliberately introduced, of course, to control aphids but what was not known at the time was that it is incredibly invasive. They are posing a real threat to the true native species and now some are facing extinction.

Another introduction in Devon is the European Beaver. This species was a native here but was hunted to extinction about five hundred years ago. There was a furious debate about the whole thing in which I became involved – if only peripherally – three or four years ago. Some beavers had escaped from a wildlife park very close to Roadford Lake, a reservoir near where we used to live. There had been a large planning application to build a holiday complex beside the lake which some of us felt was out of scale. As a result, a Roadford Lake Society was formed and I was the first secretary. Thus we became involved when the beavers escaped – the whole thing divided the community into the “fors” and the “againsts”. Now there have been sightings on the River Otter (a touch of serendipity here, one feels) which is about eighty miles to the east of that lake. Someone has managed to get a photograph of two of them together and so some people are hoping they will breed this summer. I rather hope so too but I do have a few reservations: we really don’t know what will happen any more than the people who released the Harlequins did. Has there been another escape or have these two travelled that far? No good reason why they shouldn’t.

One species we can be fairly certain will not face extinction just yet is the dog. This week’s blog dog is Billy who belongs to Brian who sells things in the market at Totnes on Fridays. The week I took these photographs, one of those “things” was a three piece suite. No idea how well this went down with the punters but Billy thought it was great.