Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Garden Birds | Protection from Cats

Following the recent cat attack that ended the short life of one of our young Blackbirds, it was decided that something must be done to help safeguard, as much as possible, our Garden Birds.

Some of the habitat we had created to be of benefit to the birds, had also proved to be a perfect hiding  place for these feline predators.

The most dangerous area has proved to be the bird table, so common in many gardens, but in this case  had actually aided the cat in it's attack on the young bird. The south facing  edge of the roofed table had become his / her  favourite resting place, often sitting there when the sun was shining, no doubt feeling safe from attack. It was the very nature of the table however that allowed the cat to approach from the rear, unseen by the unsuspecting Blackbird.

It seems likely that on this occasion the cat was able to move into a position directly below the bird, then using the central upright of the table (this was evident from claw marks in the wood) launch itself swiftly upwards to take the bird completely by surprise. Although this was the first time we became aware of such an attack, it is quite possible that this was not the first such incident. On inspection there proved to be numerous claw marks on the upright. On reflection I would  say that the table is simply not high enough from the ground. The instant solution to prevent this from happening again was to remove the bird table from the garden. It is my intention to refit the table onto a tall post that I have already installed as part of a trellis fence. In the meantime there are still feeders attached to a metal pole that I am sure is cat proof.

Following this attack, the black cat now considered our garden to be it's own sporting ground and on numerous occasions we would find it laying in ambush beneath the shrubbery on the left side of the garden. Though only small, about 1 metre X 3 metres. this area had been purposely grown somewhat wild with two small Apple trees, a large spread of Bamboo and other large shrubs that I can never remember the names of. And as planned the birds love this area. Young and adult House sparrows hide amongst the branches and shelter beneath large leaves. It also serves as a larder, being home to numerous spiders and small winged insects. Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks and the Blackbirds love to spend time in the darkened depths beneath, rooting in the bare earth, searching out grubs, worms and buried larvae. Much of this foliage is evergreen and so provides year round shelter and refuge.

To discover the cat taking such a keen interest and lying up in this undergrowth was somewhat disturbing and action needed to be taken without delay.

My idea was to use some expanding Bamboo and Willow trellis that we had grown Runner Beans on last year. I placed this beneath the shrubbery in such a way that the birds can easily pass through the diamond shaped openings in the trellis, but would be a tight squeeze for any prowling cat. It seems to work.

As I sit looking out on the garden, writing this draft with pen and paper, a male Blackbird is in that very area feeding one of his youngsters. I feel happy that the garden is now a much safer place for him, his offspring and all of the other Garden Birds.

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