A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Monday, 16 May 2011

Hooptedoodle #25 - Things Seen Outside the Kitchen Window

I was sorting out some files of photos from earlier this year, and found this one from late February - a fine chap indeed. A young male Greater Spotted Woodpecker, busy with the suet balls, getting himself into condition after a hard Winter.

We are very lucky to be able to watch a decent range of wildlife here - nothing truly exotic, but good by British standards. We have always had a family of woodpeckers around, ever since I came here - they are great characters, though very nervous of humans (as, of course, am I). This Spring we have had some birds we haven't seen before - Nuthatch and Siskin, for example - quite rare in Scotland normally. Must be the climate change, I guess.

We also get the occasional deer in the garden, and loads and loads of pheasants - the pheasants are bred here for the shooting. I'm really not a big fan of the shooting, though I'll eat the things if someone else shoots them. I'd rather leave them in peace and take pictures.

About 3/4 of a mile offshore - directly opposite our beach - is the Bass Rock, which is the chief breeding ground for Gannets in Northern Europe - there are about 1/3 of a million of them on the rock in midsummer. Strangely, they never come ashore - in 10 years, I've never seen one on land, apart from the occasional storm victim washed up on the beach. Only 3/4 of a mile away, but it could be a completely separate planet.

And, speaking of separate planets, I must make mention that I'm a little fed up today - I have recently read on Sam Mustafa's Honour website that the development of Blucher, which is expected to be the mummy and daddy of all grand tactical Napoleonic wargames, appears to have been abandoned - at least for the time being. Mustafa (I am quite a fan) makes an unusually full account of why, which is worth a read, but the main message is not good. It seems that development of such a game is not straightforward, after all. Let's see what happens.


  1. I find it comforting in an odd, hard to explain way that there are still critters living free even in amongst us humans. At the same time I occasionally find myself wondering what they do when they get sick or its storming and there is no one to look after them, which is just a sad comment on being overly domesticated myself.


  2. I guess that's why we feel obliged to keep the bird feeders full in the hard times of the year. The sick ones just die, I suppose, but most of the wildlife is tougher and smarter and more adaptable than we are. When I lived in Edinburgh, there was a period when the geniuses on the council decided that we should all put our household waste in black plastic bags and put them out two nights a week for collection the following mornings - you have never seen so many foxes in your life - they ran riot, ripping the bags open and throwing stuff around, and setting up home in the public parks. My cat Jim had to go to the vet 3 or 4 times after picking fights with foxes (he was a slow learner, too). Rigid plastic dustbins were introduced surprisingly quickly - presumably the foxes headed back to the sticks, muttering.

    Round here, the critters-to-people ratio is very high - it's more a question of us living among them. I guess its even more rarified in your patch?


  3. I used to play (that's rather a strong word; hack and swear is more accurate) golf as an older teenager growing up in the country and we used to have to play around a mob of Grey Kangaroos that used to graze and lounge on the fairways of the front 9. Not your usual golfing hazards!

    In the city the rosellas and other native parrots are reaping the rewards of farsighted city councils planting native trees roughly 20 years ago; the trees are of an age that when they flower, they provide enough sustenance and habitat for these wonderful birds to start colonising the city.

    We also have urban fox problems, as well, but as the suburbs extend further and the drought bit hard, kangaroos were entering urban areas on the fringes of big cities to eat the lawns!

  4. Here in New Hampshire, we take care to bring our bird feeders indoors each spring. Our forests are home to hungry black bears who awaken from hibernation to tour the countryside searching for an easy meal.

  5. Rarified? Nooo, I live in the boonies, on a peninsula with one of the last areas of virgin Acadian forest at its center surrounded by some of the few remaining small family farms so cows and sheep outnumber people severely. They probably outnumber the deer too but not by a lot. Our pack of hounds seem to keep the smaller critters away except for a fat old porcupine who just doesn't care, especially when the cherries are ripening, oh and one of those funny black cats with the white stripe who wanders down the road now and again, and the birds. (Luckily our cats seem to prefer mice and shrews to birds.)

  6. Now those are serious critters! I realise that our wildlife is pretty much at the shallow end of the range - bears sound interesting but not to be taken lightly.

    Someone emailed me - our deer are roe deer, I believe - only about 3 feet to the shoulder.

    The farms here are pretty much arable - there seems to be a small return to beef cattle this year after the foot & mouth problems, but mostly the land is under wheat, leeks, potatoes, and that mysterious fellow, the Brussels sprout - legendary in the UK for being universally hated, and consumed only in small quantities, exclusively at Christmas.

    Only (small) critter problem we have here comes when they stop putting feed out in the woods for the brooding pheasants - all the rats leave home and come to forage in the gardens. We only get a few, and the local ghillie (gamekeeper) keeps us well supplied with traps in the rat season - not for the squeamish.

    Not a kangaroo or bear-sized problem at all!