Gardening for wildlife
The Butterfly Diaries
It was a childhood wish of mine to have a secret garden all to myself. I did realise the dream when I was much older and the garden I had then was not quite secret. Despite this, it contained a secret world which was invisible to all who passed through or
passed by but was always available to me whenever I wanted to place the cares of office behind and was ever a source of delight and fascination.
As gardens go, it was a slip of one, hardly 20 yards by 25 yards, just large enough to form the facade of the small two-roomed bungalow in the desert of Jaisalmer where I lived. Indeed it had only a single tree, a patch of grass, some creepers on the fence
and a few potted plants but it was peopled by creatures who gave me small glimpses of their lives.
My day begins early, the "ploonk plink" of bulbuls and the "caw caw caw" of the crows is infinitely preferable to waking up with the help of an alarm clock. It is just after dawn, the sky is still grey as the sun has not risen over the dunes at the horizon
and the breeze which blows across the sand is still cold. The last vestiges of night-life can occasionally still be seen. Today, a flicker of movement at the corner of my eye causes me to turn my head, just in time to catch a last glimpse of the tail of the
large desert monitor (Varanus griseus) who lives behind my bungalow in a hole amidst a tangle of barbed wire. He has a regular nocturnal beat at this time of the year which takes him through the matchbox-sized gardens of the three bungalows side-by-side, then
around the large store-house, into the transport yard, across the bordering dune, and back along it on the far side till he rounds the dune, crosses a road and is back into the tiny gardens.
Sometimes, late at night I find a large, prickly and wicked looking arthropod, the solifuge, who patrols my garden each night for insects and small life. Of him, I have written elsewhere.
The hedgehog creeps by at night
About him and the Varanus, the hedgehog does not know or care, for about once a fortnight, he pays me a visit.
It is always dark when he comes for a sip of water from the squirrel-bowl. He easily finds his way in but for some reason stumbles on his way out and so I notice him. He scrambles between the bowl and fence but there is no exit there. He tries the jird's hole
but I lift him and place him on the road outside my bungalow free to go where he wills.
He is easily trapped, and since taking a good picture is difficult, so one day, I catch him and keep him till day-time when I photograph him.
Hedgehog held in hand peeps out
Hedgehogs are difficult to identify and my guides are not quite comprehensive and the descriptions not specific enough, so, like a lot of amateur naturalists, I call it an Indian Hedgehog and leave it at that.
Night too leaves behind a few small villains, who now appear or can be found where they were not present the previous evening. I am referring, of course, to the scorpions who have the knack of turning up where you never expected to find it - on the outside
of the 'macchar-dani' (mosquito net), in the folds of the towel on the rack, three feet above the ground or in your boots, the one day you forget to check. Then, its a ''EEYOWW' followed by the immediate,abrupt and merciless extinction of the perpetrator and
later on a local anaesthetic and some salve. A few bites later, you realise it was the fright and unexpectedness which raced your heart more than the pain and it was your ego that required the balm more than the sting.