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Private biotope

Snake
Not a rattle, but a ring snake

Entitled like George Orwell's book, but that's all that's common. The outskirts' garden kept rather close to nature offers numerous species a hiding place and a place for living. The sunny and sandy south-west incline is appreciated by lizards, which are very easy to tame. One can feed them with flies and worms hold between the fingers. On hot days the thankfully accept water. Where lizards live slow-worms aren't far.
Even »exotics« show up. For instance cross-vipers, black woodpeckers or at the winter feeding even ten(!) pheasants at a time.
A view with the binoculars through the window often is much more interesting than watching TV.

Thanks to water biotopes in the neighborhood there are ring-snakes (refer to image; clearly the yellow half moon marks on the sides of the head are to be seen), grass and water frogs and toads as well. For some years a pair of grass frogs stayed in the garden, hardly separated by more than one meter. On hot days they sought cooling in the bird bath and it was almost possible to touch them.
Additionally various dragon fly species bustle here and in general insects and other small animals over all.
Exciting was when hornets had chosen a bird nesting box for their own nest and to see it grow. Opposite common prejudice they are rather harmless and facile.

The animals are used to humans more or less. One get on with each other or one simply keeps out of others' ways.

 

Visitors in the garden

Temporary fellow-tenants

Summer Feed

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Visitors in the garden

Fairys' curtain

Eck!? Have you ever tried to feed a spider by hand? I made a funnel web spider take mosquitoes clamped between my fingers and even left its net in order to accept flies presented on my hand. Some spectators turned very pale by that...
Also it is great to watch the brood care of the daddy-long-legs spider (vibrating spider). The mother spider watches over the egg cocoon and later over the baby spiders for some days. When one puts a prey animal in the net, the spider very carefully steps across over its babies. Once the young spiders had chosen a fluorescent tube for a first rest. Whenever it turned warm they side by side in dozens roped down an appropriate distance. It looked like a hazy shade of curtain. When after switching off the lamp turned colder they climbed up stepwise again.

Extra animal stories from the nearer wild - Farm Extension:

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Wasp douche

Especially the small things often surprise. At a decoration well wasps picked up cooling water for their nest under the hot tile roof. In the evening after busy air traffic one or more wasps scuttled under the outlet tube and took an extensive shower.

 

The birds

Early bird, of course, all the culture followers like mice, blackbird, magpie, jay, squirrel, titmice (6 species), woodpeckers and robins are well represented. Especially the last get very friendly. Well, the young titmice now and then land on one's hand waiting for feed.
And with the great spotted woodpeckers it's another matter. I can remember those times they hastily left the garden, when one just moved behind a window. Nowadays one clears the path of snow in less than two meters distance a woodpecker clambers crying about a tree: Bird fat balls are out! Hardly one has mounted a ball and just turning away immediately the hungry woodpecker clings at it. Nuthatch and treeceepers are guests, too.
Even bats (mammals, no birds but they fly as well ;-) come for a rendezvous speedy and smart like swallows of the night.

 

Wag the squirrel

Enemy protection can be gained by nearness to humans. The adult birds, however, don't really appreciate when one stands near their nesting box. One day loud and angry twitter of a coupler of great tits drew my attention to a black squirrel actually fingering their nesting box. I carefully approached and tugged at the squirrel's tail. It took up like a rocket. Afterwards the tit parents really sang for me so I suppose only less was missing and they would have slipped a worm to me expressing their gratitude for the support.
Some days later I noticed the male tit carefully stalking up on a red squirrel and pulling its tail.

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Temporary fellow-tenants

Everything and all for nothing but the cat:

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Even now and then the scientific curiosity or the helpfulness demand more. Then deeper contact takes place. Who does not want to thoroughly watch the metamorphosis of frogs? Or who wants to let perish a helpless animal baby?

That enables the deeper concerns about the individual behavior and the nuanced interactions with humans. Thereby it just scratches a bit the rather mechanistic approach of the traditional behavioral biology.
Not to mention the real domestic animals or pets.

Real love for animals: During the bicycle tour discovering a puddle with tadpoles just before drying up and saving them in the drinking water bottle. Or even like my aunt: cycling home, returning with the camper and filling up the puddle out of the drinking water reservoir.

 

Thieving magpie

Magpie
They have a magpie in the belfry...

Entering as foundling brought by a friend, the magpie chick was called Hansi. (It is not unusual that young magpies leave the nest although they are not yet fledged. In general they are fed by the adult birds further on.) He showed very great shyness concerning people and tried to flee. Although he was obviously exhausted he refused any food offered. Even water wasn't accepted.

Not until I spent some time, used tricks and cunning and a little bit force as well, I was able to stuff a small ball of minced meat into his throat and force him to swallow. But then Hansi accepted the second piece voluntary and asked for more.
After that he was allowed to make himself comfortably on the backrest of a kitchen chair and surprised us because he started to turn restlessly under crying, better whining - hazels are house-trained! Thankfully he accepted an offered piece of newspaper and then fell asleep.

Hansi was allowed to move by his own choice and slept on a backrest of a kitchen chair. In the house or in the garden he ran after one. The most popular game was turning stones. I rolled over stones in order to find adequate nourishment. Hansi had great fun. Even when he obviously had no more hunger, he curiously checked the base of every stone I turned.

He showed no urge to fly as if he didn't know he would be able to do it. Even if he should have been full-fledged. Not until I softly threw him in the air he started to flutter. First he had sought refuge in the trees higher and higher and spent moaning the whole night there. On the next morning he tried to directly hit the open kitchen window in the second floor. Too high! Out of the roof gutter he managed to get back to the trees. Second trial: Too deep! Again back in another roof gutter to the trees. Not until I came back from school he took heart. From limb to limb and tree to tree he made his way downstairs and touched down in the lawn with a somersault after slithering over a sun umbrella, but he was in fear of punishment. After he calmed himself down and had eaten and drunk for three days he felt asleep for a complete day.

Even so when he learned to fly he stayed with us on his own decision. He slept on a clothesline in the cellar where a window provided access. In the morning he sat on the windowsill of the kitchen on the first floor waiting that somebody let him in for breakfast. Then he followed his people to the car, to school, to the shopping tour, ... He landed on one's shoulder on demand. Imagine that: suddenly a big black and white bird dives from the sky stopping in last moment to land soft like a feather on one's shoulder. Witnesses were upset.

During the day he strolled through the house and the garden. In the evening he »told« sitting on one's shoulder, what had happened during the day.
The play instinct was very strong. He liked to fill sleeping grandpa's ears with gleaming pebbles. In the house he was a fan of glittering paper of sweets. First he watched me snipping it from the table, then he flew with it on a cupboard and let it glide to the ground. The only thing he theft was father's pipe stopper made of shiny metal. All other valuable and shiny things we kept away from him.

Indoor he seldom flew, but when then impressive. Usually magpies are not considered as good flyers, however, when he poised on the spot or even backwards(!) like a hummingbird one couldn't believe it.

His social behavior was striking. Thereby an inhibition existed. Never he etched closer with his beak pointing towards one's face or even eyes. Within a certain distance he was forced to turn his head to the side. (Well, therefore the proverb: »A crow does not pick one others' eyes.«) He, however, insisted to examine my teeth - starting with carefully scrapping to fierce knocking. He seemed to be deeply impressed.
And sometime I risked at least one eye when he intended to practice social body care: Obviously the aesthetic feeling of magpies and humans is not very different. He just pulled out the hairs in my nose. Spreading hears of my eyebrow he bent in form with tongue and beak edge. If they were too unruly, he picked them out. He de-twisted my eyelash very carefully and arranged the hairs parallel. He never pulled out one of them.

After several weeks two adult magpies entered the garden and carefully etched closer and closer day by day. Somehow they made him clear that he usually belonged to them. Finally he toured with them. This seems not to be unusual. I have already heard and read of that adult magpies fetch young magpies from human custody.
In real we were quite happy, because he showed no shyness towards people, played sometimes the (uninvited ;-) surprise party guest in the neighborhood and he had just been caught already. Now and then he visited us and obviously he could convince the adult magpies that we were harmless. Because even they came closer, too.

 

Hedgehogs - Meckis and Mickis

Hedgehog
Hedgehog Mecki I is in the house

Easy convention - all male hedgehogs were called Mecki, all female ones Micki.

Only animals with underweight (under about 500 g; about 1.1 pound) which strayed around in autumn and would have not survived a hibernation were helped to get through the winter. Most hedgehogs, however, one gets in that way are sick or have parasites and worms. Consulting the vet is almost obligatory.
Nevertheless passing the winter is a delicate job, therefore in some regions the private care is not permitted. We got off, too. Very important: Do not offer undiluted milk!

The first hedgehog called Mecki joined us for winter in the middle of September. He had a weight of 85 g (less than 0.19 pound only. First he took the hedgehog position, but then he got confidence. He really made friends with us. Due to moving free through the flat (covered with newspaper, hedgehogs aren't house-trained!) Mecki followed and used almost every occasion to snuggle. He let himself turn on the back, let his belly scratch gently and therefore in delight bit in one's fingers. In this position he liked to be fed, too. After that he slept in one's arms or on one's knees. He showed no shyness towards people and reacted on them, e.g. by switching to day activity.
In early spring he was set free with a weight of more than 1 100 g, but staid in the vicinity.

A female hedgehog showed the complete range of the attitude towards people. Micki was to be seen just two times. Once when she arrived from a chicken farm and ticks and fleas were removed and twice when she was set free with imposing 1 300 g. In the meantime one saw a wool wood tangle only, which moved to the food bowl, smacked and retired after a while.
Only once Micki freaked out: when I presented her a hen's egg the sound of my finger nails on the eggshell made her jump just like a rubber ball. Obviously eggs were just what she wanted...

 

Rabid Bambi

Fawn
A handful of deer

Emergency case called Rehlein (Engl.: ~Deerly) came as orphaned foundling to my aunt. His mother had been ran over by a mowing machine.
My aunt brought up the really tiny and helpless baby with the feeding-bottle and he got completely tame. He showed no shyness towards people. He got along with my aunt's cats, too.

First the deer had the permission to move through the entire garden. After he got older he liked to ram his head and later his horns with increasing pressure against one's legs or whatever was in his way. That wasn't as harmless as it seems, because one didn't recognize the danger of the situation. He came up slowly walking and with bowed head, aimed and then he pressed with maximum force. A typical behavior, which also Konrad Lorenz already describes in He talked to the cattle, the birds and the fishes.

Finally my aunt gave him away to an open-air enclosure. But she visited her Rehlein regularly.

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Summer Feed

Extraordinary cold July made it hard for the great titmice to rise their second breed. One was not able to stand by and watch the misery any longer. A handful of sunflower seed put on the veranda table should support the completely exhausted adult birds. They were accepted with thanks. when the young birds left the nest their parents brought them to the table. After a critical view onto the humans they landed aside one, skipped to the seeds, snatched one and pecked it open on a neighboring twig so far as they were not fed. The adult birds discovered that the seeds could be easily clamped into the stitches of the tablecloth for opening.
The snack stall got around. A young bluetit, two nuthatches and two crested tits approached, too. Temporarily also a red and a black squirrel and even two jays glanced around.
In the morning the flock of birds was already awaiting one, if not even the crested tits flew into the house. It was hard to have the heart to stop it.
Meanwhile the summer feed has become established and has gotten around. Even by marsh tits, robins and chaffinchs.
During the winter feeding one is amply rewarded by the sight of the feathered friends sitting in the tree like Christman balls.

 



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