Many people responded to my blog yesterday on the rabbits which have decided to live under my vegetables; while everyone saw the humour as well as the charm in the situation, some talked of the difficulty of living harmlessly with wildlife, and I appreciate their point – it is not easy to find a perfect balance with nature.
I am heartened always to be reminded of the many numbers of people who try so hard to help our threatened wildlife as best they can, who recognise how much the human race has done to separate from and undermine it, and wish to help. It is hard when we go to great effort and it backfires, as it can do so often, and living with nature comfortably is a constant and sometimes hard learning.
Grey squirrels are a problem here where I live in mid-Wales, because my home is in an oak tree grove. My predecessor here did not feed the song birds, and when I began to put out seeds to help them survive a wet and cold climate, the squirrels gathered too, in great numbers and were a nuisance as they monopolised the food and prevented the small birds reaching it. Short of trapping or shooting them, I did everything I could to deter them, creating elaborate squirrel proof feeding stations, mixing paprika in the food and trying to find seed that squirrels hate, but nothing worked – although a family of foxes proved excellent squirrel catchers one year. Eventually through trial and error, patience and observation I learned which were the best feeders and where to put them, and saw that by allowing them access to some seed on the ground they feed a little and then go: the birds are used now to the squirrels and their habits and eat along side them; the squirrel population is much reduced and I see these animals as friend not foe.
Our challenge is that because there are too many people in the world – nature has been pushed out, and when it is threatened nature reacts. Trying to help nature can create an imbalance also, and it can be hard to know what to do for the best. Because I chose to feed the birds, I encouraged squirrels to come and it has been my responsibility to accept and deal with the side effects of helping bird survival at a time when many species are endangered.
What I do with my home and garden in broader terms is my responsibility too, and I am learning constantly from the actions of nature how to help it, without unbalancing it as far as possible. Only this morning a blackbird fledgling flew into a window and died, and when I looked at its flight path I saw it was drawn to a mirror in an upstairs room reflecting trees in the early morning light, so I have covered it – too late for the blackbird but not, perhaps, for other young birds.
All we can do is do our best, learn from our mistakes and through observation and patience see what works and what does not. Sometimes intervention is necessary to help to achieve harmony for all who share our homes, like removing weeds or putting up a fence, moving a feeder or planting pollinators. Nature responds beautifully to love and loving intent, and she is forgiving when we get it wrong if our heart is with her. Trying to help her can be hard, frustrating, and sad, but it is intensely rewarding when she shows her pleasure and gives her thanks.