Last night's wildlife camera session showed we were visited twice by a fox. It was sniffing around the gravel near the front door at twenty past ten, and again at just gone midnight. The Systems Administrator has rigged a couple of solar powered, motion activated lights at the edge of the drive, to see if that scares it off. We don't want a fox so close to the house and hen house at all, and certainly not right outside the cat flap. We were going to keep the kittens indoors until they were bigger anyway, but if we hadn't been before we would be now, since discovering we are getting nightly visits from Reynard. The SA was rather dismissive of my idea that this particular fox might be disposed of on a more permanent basis, saying that somebody would have to lie in wait for it for hours with no guarantee that it would show up, but I shall ask the advice of my friend the wildfowler whose friend and fellow club member is a professional pest controller, the next time I see him.
It is of course possible that a fox has been patrolling right beside the house for years, and we never knew until now because we didn't have a camera rigged there. My friend the wildfowler has a story of somebody who lost all her hens to the fox, the one night she forgot to shut them in. How unlucky, she lamented, that the fox should come the only time she didn't secure them. Not so, said my friend, the fox has been coming every night to see if you have forgotten.
Curled on top of one of the box hedges I saw a small brownish thing, that looked vaguely like an earthworm except that something about it suggested it wasn't. It uncoiled rapidly at my approach, and I saw from the bright yellow flash at the back of its neck that it was a baby grass snake, before it dropped down out of sight. That's the only part of the garden where I've seen fully grown adults, and as it's close to some sheltered, south facing paving I presumed it was one of their favoured places for basking, but the only time I've ever found eggs or egg pods was in the compost bins, which must be a hundred yards away. They are mysterious animals, the grass snakes in the garden. Wildlife is a subjective term, since I am pleased to see the grass snakes but not the foxes. The Systems Administrator is mildly phobic about snakes and would rather not have either.
It was a useless day for gardening. I spent the first part of it getting new tyres fitted to my car, and came home via the Clacton Garden Centre and the farm shop to stock up on flower pots and local strawberries and asparagus. The staff in the garden centre had the slightly grim air of people faced with a key trading month being rained off. I know from my years working in the plant centre that an awful lot of sales happen between Easter and early July, if they are going to happen at all. I tried to cut the edges of the lawn when I got home, thinking I wouldn't get too many tools out so that I could dodge the showers, but the wet grass wouldn't cut and it soon began to rain quite hard, and I gave up. The grass was wet, all the plants in the borders were wet, and if I attempted to crawl in among them I would soon be wet as well, while bonemeal and miccorrhizal fungus stuck to everything. There were distant rumbles of thunder all afternoon, and the SA developed a headache, while even the kittens ran out of energy.