Country matters: Swallows fly while house mice scurry in

By now most of the swallows have gathered to say goodbye and suddenly disappear. Some linger until the end of the month, and then the rearmost of the delayed breeders disappear almost overnight.

Chicks are occasionally abandoned, as the urge to walk outweighs the urge to feed, and the mummified remains are summarily discarded when the next season’s residents arrive.

Swooping Swallows are one of nature’s great delights. Poet Kathleen Jamie wished her “whole beating heart” was like a place with swallows in every room, “so relaxed they chirp and preen out of picture frames” and “turn over in a mocking pity before winging it… to stream out into the light”.

Then goodbye Hirundo rusticahere come the rodents (I hope not Rattus norvegicus), because this month is moving time for the house mouse (Mus musculus) and also for the occasional forest or garden dweller (Apodemus sylvaticus) to poke an adventurous nose past a kitchen door.

October winds may wail over castles and high-rises, but much closer to the ground, and underneath four-legged visitors travel in search of comfort and sustenance.

I’ve had regular contact with mice in several places throughout my wandering life, although I once had a fear-free period thanks to electronic devices plugged into outlets sending out waves of (probable) mouse abuse that only they could hear. Then the system lost its effectiveness and as I was writing about it here, a reader asked me if I hadn’t considered that too much ultrasound might have made the mice deaf?

Trapping methods sometimes used resulted in casualties being released in an alleyway, no doubt wounded returning to the Kitchen of Plenty on foot. These days I look at a few cats who are confident that they will explore gardens when they feel like it.

Indulging his readers in ancient Rome with a motley heap of busy details, the poet Horace began a tale of mouse adventures in the classic Once Upon a Time vein when a country mouse harbored a city friend in his “armhole” in the woods. .

The country boy “lived rough” but wanted to show his friend hospitality and would not indulge the haughty-toothed townsman with chickpeas or long kernels of oats. However, the townsman who missed better times invited his compatriot to leave his rural hardship behind for a happier life, to be laid back on purple bedspreads in a townhouse and served course after course of dishes inspired by a feast were left.

Everyone was looking great to the country boy until a loud noise knocked them both off their couch and sent them shivering across the dining room. The loud barking of molosser dogs, a breed of impressive mastiffs, penetrated the house, and that was enough for the country boy to urgently seek an exit. Horace writes, “I don’t need this life,” said the country mouse. Goodbye! My hole in the woods will make me comfortable – with a helping of bitter vetch.”

So he quickly made his way home, a wiser and cleaner mouse — wood or field mice, according to reliable sources, wash and preen themselves when frightened — and relieved to be back in the quiet of the country.

There was no word on how his host had fared, though he’d probably managed to dodge the dogs adroitly. Country matters: Swallows fly while house mice scurry in

Fry Electronics Team

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