Sunday, 24 April 2016

my sympathies are with Mr McGregor

The Systems Administrator and I had a difference of opinion yesterday evening as to where the camera should be set next.  I wanted to know what was taking the bait out of the rabbit traps, out of simple curiosity as much as anything.  The Systems Administrator wanted to stick to a rational search plan, and find out more about whether rabbits were getting in at the top corner of the garden near the gate.  It is the SA's camera, and the SA's view prevailed, with the camera left duly pointing up the grass path from the lower lawn towards the gate.

The only pictures we got, apart from wobbly shots of the sky taken while mounting and dismounting the camera on its tripod, were a couple of blank photographs of the grass path and border with no clue as to what had triggered the image, and one shot of Our Ginger proceeding from right to left across the frame.  As the SA said, at least it proved that he was patrolling out of hours, though we knew that anyway because the oven glove we'd left on the kitchen table last night had got Strulch on it from Our Ginger going for a walk through the borders and then sleeping on the glove.  Once again the bait had been surgically removed from both traps without triggering them.

There was a rabbit sitting at the back of the further rose bed when I got up.  It was there yesterday morning as well.  The SA took a shot at it both times, and missed, both times, which prompted the SA to check the calibration of the sight on the air rifle.  It had drifted or been knocked out by two inches over whatever the distance is from the bedroom window to the rose bed, which would explain why the SA hadn't got any rabbits recently.  To test a gun sight you mark some test crosses on a target (a cardboard box does nicely and is self supporting), shoot at them and see where the pellet hits, adjust the sight if the shot is out of centre in any systematic fashion, and repeat until you hit the target centres.  The SA's test shots showed a neat pattern across three crosses, two inches off to the right, an inch off and third time spot on.  Obviously this only works if you can shoot straight in the first place.  I can't, so I don't try.

Anybody who takes a sentimental view of wild rabbits would be up in arms at this point.  I would point to the litany of damage in the garden.  Lathyrus vernus (raised by me from seed) and Lathyrus niger (a present from a friend) eaten to ground level.  Ditto Omphalodes verna.  No flowers on the Viola odorata.  None on the Sanguisorba canadensis.  Half the clumps of perennial geraniums chewed down each time they try to grow.  Grape hyacinths at half strength, maximum. Anemone blanda planted out in full bloom trimmed back to green buns within days.  Fritillaries in the gravel, stumps.  Vegans are entitled to object to our shooting the rabbits in the garden.  Anyone who eats meat or milk or wears leather had better examine their own relationship with the animal kingdom first.

Tonight we have compromised, with the camera still on the top corner but directed towards the trap in the upper end of the sloping bed, which I have re-baited, though I didn't bother baiting the one in the rose bed.  That way we should see if rabbits are hippity-hopping about in the flower bed near the gate, and might see what is taking the bait and how it is doing it.  Or at least, if it's anything as large as a rabbit, rat or squirrel we should.  I'm not sure mice would show up on the camera, and slugs probably don't move fast enough to trigger it.  Meanwhile the SA has been furiously checking the view of the rose bed from the bedroom window, only now there are no rabbits.  Maybe they got fed up with having pot shots taken at them and are sitting about at the bottom of the rose bank instead.  The pace at which we can gather intelligence with one camera is frustratingly slow, meanwhile the enemy keeps changing tactics.

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