Love in the cemetery

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I live near Brompton Cemetery, a grand Victorian green oasis near Chelsea FC.


The story behind this extraordinary gravestone is one of the more remarkable ones:

But this week, the sun was shining, and everyone decided it was spring. The trees:


The birds:


You can hear this European Robin, Erithacus rubecula, song here:

And the squirrels, doing their Cirque du Soleil trapeze act imitations:


After playing hard to get in a “mating chase”:


She selected one from a trio of suitors, and there they enjoyed a precarious tryst high, high in the treetops. The tail says it all:


She will have a litter of 3-4, after a gestation of 44 days. Females can breed at 10-12 months, and often have two litters per year. They may live to the age of 5, so at up to 8 young per year for four years, that is 32 young per female. There are about 2.5 million grey squirrels in the UK, and you can see why their introduction from the US has overwhelmed the more sedate British reds.

Their Chinese name is sōngshû, or ‘pine tree mouse’, 松鼠. The second character looks very mouselike!

PS My computer refuses to put the right accent on the ‘u’ in sōngshû. Sorry to those of you who know it should be a ‘v’ shape, not a little hat. 



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