As you can see, my Mother’s backyard is not a jungle: urban or otherwise.
Her house is in an old village around which has grown a ‘New Town’. These post-Second World War housing developments have retained grassed and wooded areas. The burns (streams and small creeks) and their bushy banks which once marked the boundaries of fields and farms still run through the town, and remain the highways of animal travel which they are always been. However, the current travelers along these wildlife corridors have been caught in a time warp.
I have noticed in my last few visits home that every open place has its magpie. When I was a boy, the woods around the farm cottage in which my grandparents lived were full of them and their raucous chatter; but they weren’t seen in town.
On this last visit, wood pigeons were as numerous as the magpies. When I got my first shotgun, wood pigeons, rabbits, and hares were the game of our ‘by permission’ rough shoots. They were pests to the farmer and sport to us. The wood pigeon’s size made it worthwhile shooting for the table. We’d hunt them from blinds like one would wildfowl, but their mix of fast flight and swooping glides made them as challenging for the gun as the driven game of our more affluent fellow sportsmen. Indeed, I was saddened when I read a number of years ago an article by Jim Carmichael in Outdoor Life about a trip he’d taken to the UK and the organised wood pigeon shoot which he had attended. Now that there is money in it, wood pigeon shooting will no longer be the entry level sport it was. That said, however, last week, there were so many of them sitting about the place that all I should have needed to bring home a good meal’s worth was a pile of half bricks.
Nevertheless, the real surprise was to look out of the kitchen window after lunch and find a vixen sunning herself. She stayed there all afternoon, moving only enough to stay out of the lengthening shadows. And when the warmth was gone, so was she.
They all seem to be as much at home among stone and tarmac as their forebears were on the same ground among hedgerows and pastures.