What is in your Garden…

Ever wonder what is at the bottom of your garden? The area of Cherryvalley, Kensington and Shandon provides rich picking for many garden visitors including a wide range of birds plus a splattering of other creatures including rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs with the possibility of the odd badger or fox and undoubtedly the odd mouse.

On the bird front I have witnessed the House Sparrow, Dunnock, Robin, an array of Tits including the Great, Blue and Coal as well as the Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Bullfinch followed by Blackbirds, Starlings, Magpies, Jays the Jawdaw and Raven as well as Pigeons and Coloured Doves. Such is the abundance of small wildlife that we have had several visits from Sparrowhawks as well as Kestrels.

Keeping Koi and other goldfish as I do I have had more than one visit from the Heron which has led to constant battles in pond defence and until July this year I was winning that battle then late one evening I heard a splash. Thinking the neighbours cat had stupidly fallen in I listened expecting to hear it struggle to get out but alas nothing so out I went to inspect. Rumblings and something scampering over the fence only led to confusion before the next evening coming face to face with a large ‘dog’ otter standing staring at me with prize Koi hanging from its mouth. It ran past me and jumped yes jumped the fence scaring a cat sitting on top of a neighbours shed half to death.

The next evening led to placing a camera on the pond and managing to get ‘video evidence’ of the intruder because no one would believe me that I had an otter. Checking with the NIEA and PSNI I was advised that it was illegal to ‘live trap’ an otter not that I was wanting to, instead enquiring 1. how best to prevent its getting into the garden and 2. what to do if it got caught in my pond net.

They don’t climb fences was the advice.. Yes they do. I know because I stood and watched it climb over a 6ft fence.

I could surround my pond with an electric fence and stun it was the advice… Yes but how much voltage and what if my grandkids, wife or any of our feathered friends touched it by mistake. Trail and error I was told so maybe I could use one of the grandkids to test the voltage after all they are about the same size as said otter.

Both organisations left me with more questions than answers and the reality was neither were actually that interested in providing assistance except to warn again that if I accidentally trapped it by mistake in my netting I would be prosecuted. So in short it is OK to electrify an otter just not humanely trap it and remove it to a safer location.

The otter has gone but only because all my Koi have gone.. would I wish him back Yes but not at the expense of a belly full of Koi every night.

The otter I presume has come from the Knock River running through Cherryvalley. How and why it decided to venture out across roads and through gardens to end up with me I suspect had to do with hunger.. Otter sightings are rare even more so in urban areas however there has been two others in the Kings Road area suggesting that we have a resident along this stretch of stream.

So next time your down at the bottom of the garden have a closer look…