A blue tit is squeaking from somewhere near our neighbour’s roof. I have seen or heard it several times and I have wondered if it might be nesting. There is a gap under the tiles and they have nested there before, though it seems a bit late in the season to be looking at a new site. According to naturalists on TV they have had a bad season this year, the cold spring preventing the flush of caterpillars that usually coincides with the hatching of their young. No food meant a poor success rate. We tend not to feed the birds these days because it attracts squirrels, magpies and rats. None of them are particularly welcome. Several of the neighbours over-feed, and some even put food out for foxes. I’ve told them several times that this causes rats, but they ignore me. One even told me that it was my unkempt nature plot that caused the rat problem. Not true. Rats need to eat, and there is nothing for them here. Gardens that leave out food scraps and hard boiled eggs are the cause of the rat problem, and gardens with decking. The stories I could tell you about decking . . .
I have actually sat in a neighbour’s garden and watched rats, in daylight, emerge from under their shed and climb the bird table to feed. The neighbour treated it as if it were a nature documentary. It’s not the fault of the rats, it’s the fault of humans who don’t have the sense they were born with.
After a lifetime killing rats on farms, and knowing a man who caught Weil’s disease whilst fishing, I don’t take rats lightly. There’s something about a rat that riggers a murderous impulse in me. I have actually seen people playing with pet rats in public, and have felt myself wanting to go over and kill it. Fancy rats, despite their colours and cute faces are just the same as the normal disease-ridden bird killing garden rat – they were originally bred from colour variations that Victorian ratcatchers found in sewers. Bear that in mind next time you see one.