Strange sightings in the garden

Who is Phileas? And what’s he doing in the back garden of a north London terraced house?

This is Phileas, a pheasant that has miraculously appeared in the back garden of our north London terraced house. A pheasant meeting the peasants, a neighbour in the posh houses up the other end of the street commented. But it’s a mystery what brings such an decorative creature, common in farmland and woodland, to Zone 2.

I first spotted him pecking beneath our bird feeder, seeking out the grains carelessly discarded above by the ubiquity of sparrows and whatever collective noun applies to blue tits and great tits. It didn’t take him long to discover the heap of seeds that, not long before, I’d carelessly spilled when refilling the feeders, gorging on this free and easy feast.

I first spotted him pecking beneath our bird feeder, seeking out the grains carelessly discarded above by the ubiquity of sparrows and whatever collective noun applies to blue tits and great tits. It didn’t take him long to discover the heap of seeds that, not long before, I’d carelessly spilled when refilling the feeders, gorging on this free and easy feast.

We are lucky that, over the years, our feeders have attracted as diverse a selection of birds as you could imagine this far into the city. Robins, blackbirds, parakeets, woodpeckers, even the occasional sparrow hawk, along with magpies, crows, jays and the inevitable pigeons, are amongst those costing me a small fortune on bird feed every week. But Phileas the pheasant was a first.

As he worked his way through the seeds, he met with another of our garden visitors. Squirrels. When they’re about, the birds normally scatter. But not Phileas. He was standing no nonsense. When one brave squirrel dared to investigate the booty, Phileas squared up, beak to nose.

The squirrel backed off. 1-0 to Phileas. Yet I feared defeat was still on the cards, if not from a squirrel, from other intruders into our small space.

Once satiated, Phileas retreated into what he must have considered to be the safety of the undergrowth. Maybe in the New Forest he would have been invisible. But here, his camouflage through a clump of daffodils against a trellis and concrete wall was not convincing. It certainly wouldn’t convince the foxes that roam the streets each night and trespass in our garden. My wonder turned to worry. If I fed him more seeds, would I not be encouraging him to stay, luring him to a certain fate of snarling jaws and journey’s end?

There was also another problem. Keeva the greyhound. She’s ours. Friendly, docile, somnolent. Until she sees something that she can chase. An ex-racer, a serial winner at Romford, Harlow and Crayford, she makes the end of the garden in next to no time. A cat or squirrel that catches her eyes needs to be quick off the mark and over the fence.

Even after finishing fourth, third and a lowly fifth in consecutive races three years ago, before being subjected to a life in retirement, she’s still quick. Probably too quick for a slightly ungainly pheasant.

Keeva running free, three years after retirement.

So for a day, we kept Keeva from going into the garden where Phineas was taking shelter, leaving her to stare balefully through the patio door windows, looking longing at the bright-colours of a potential prey.  But we couldn’t keep her cooped up for longer than a day. I made a decision. As hungry as Phineas appeared to have been, I must offer him no further inducement to stay.

It was with some relief that, as evening fell, he loped off into the trees, perhaps disappointed that dinner was not going to present itself. That just left me to worry about the night, and a likely encounter with the foxes and his becoming dinner.

I needn’t have worried. Early next morning, there he was, back in the garden.

But Keeva needed to use the space. There was no option but to let her out.  Although we kept her on a lead, for Phileas, the sight of a dog built for speed was too much. He hopped into a tree and from there, out of sight, to we know not where.

It’s what I’d hoped for really. All for the best, make his own way on his round the world journey, free and without human intervention.

For me, I was grateful that I no longer needed to feel a sense of responsibility, to protect him from an environment he is not ideally suited to. Even though I know I’d not be up to the task.

And yet, even as I write, I’m still glancing out the window, worrying about him, contemplating throwing down some more seeds should he be hungry and wanting to come back.

When I’ve finished writing this, I’ll go and have a proper look.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might just enjoy Richard’s first novel, out now. A heartwarming story of ambition, ageing and family, it’s called ‘Homeward Bound’. It’s available online, through bookshops and here.

Author: Richard Smith

I'm a writer and storyteller and for much if my life produced sponsored films and commercials. Subjects were as varied as bananas in Cameroon, oil from the North Sea, fighting organised crime and caring for older people. Their aim was always to make a positive difference, but, worryingly, two commercials I worked on featured in a British Library exhibition, ‘Propaganda’.

4 thoughts on “Strange sightings in the garden”

    1. Was this one brightly coloured and pheasant looking? If so, it could be! He certainly seems to be a wanderer. I just hope he isn’t lost and lonely. Is there a missing pheasants’ bureau or
      dating agency?

      Like

Leave a Reply to Richard Smith Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s