Monday, 21 April 2014


If you could see what I can see.....
As I sit and type this in on a beautifully sunny, blue sky Easter Monday (only the chilly stiff NE breeze stops it being perfect!), our newest recruit, the pale coloured, widowed Guinea fowl 'Blondie' is sitting on the dining room window sill not 4 feet from where Liz is working at the laptop. She (Blondie, not Liz) is standing erect, surveying the front lawn and uttering her repetitive 'Buckwheat buckwheat buckwheat' call which we think is her trying to call up her late 'husband', sadly killed in a car accident a few days ago.

Readers of my earlier posts will know that we agreed to re-home this poor tragic figure thinking that she might get over her grief and fall in love with our cock bird Henry, making up a neat trio, and that we took delivery of her on Good Friday. We have been bimbling through a kind of integration process but she has given us a bit of an emotional roller-coaster.

Our style here is generally one of minimal intervention. The birds (except our orchard-confined geese) are fully free range and not wing-clipped, they are almost 'guests' here by choice although we do try to keep them rounded up off the lane outside and try to stop any fights; we try to adhere to that high welfare mantra of allowing them to exhibit natural behaviour. We tend to contain any new bird for only a short while so that they can identify this place with its noises, skyline, smells and we humans, as home, and to ensure that none of the existing birds see red and try to attack the newcomer. Previously this has always worked. We then release them over a couple of days into bigger and bigger chunks of the place, till they have it all. You'll know from earlier posts that this did not go so well.

Blondie gets a dust bath in
Blondie, released from her rabbit run on day 2 wandered around for long enough for us to relax and then suddenly hit the road eastwards towards Una's place, threading her way across fields and through hedges with Liz tracking her and trying to keep up. Blondie proved to have a full set of wing feathers and is well able to fly like a pheasant. She will 'explode' up 8-12 feet into the air and then choose a direction and whirr away for tens of yards in a fast-flapping shallow glide, hit the ground running and zoom off in an ostrich-like, skirts up sprint across the grass. You'd never catch her. The genie was out of the bottle on this one and we were going to have to persuade her home rather than force her.

She loves high places like this gate pier.
That day we rounded her up and persuaded her home half a dozen times; we were exhausted from hopping over the eastern gate and nipping up the lane and then invading the gardens of the empty house next door and Una's, trying to shepherd her back. Steered in the right direction she had no problem flying over fences and hedges but we had to open the horse's gate a couple of times and drive her through. But last thing at night (9 pm) Henry, who had been trying to dominate and mount her had one last go and she whirred away east into the dusk. We looked but had no idea where she'd gone to roost, so our hearts sank. Had we failed to keep this bird safe for even the first 30-odd hours? We had even failed to show her that we feed you if you stay around. She had no reason to think we were a nice place to stay

Easter Monday's male Emperor Moth
Relief then, on day 3 (Easter Sunday) to be woken up by the sound of her 'buckwheat' shouts from the direction of Una's, loud enough that we worried she might be disturbing our very good friend and neighbour. I nipped round to shepherd her home. This time she sprinted down the lane and back in through the front gate, which was reassuring to see.

She spent the lion's share of Sunday on site, exploring, getting fed grain, bonding with the chickens, dust bathing with them and occasionally interacting with the Guineas Henry and Min. Min basically ignores her but H will at least run at her and try to mount. His technique, though, is hopeless. She willingly squats low with wings spread. He hops on but then seems to just slide off without doing anything. Or he chases her around clinging to her rump feathers with his beak. You'd not call it tender love or even passionate sex. Just once she wandered back round to Una's as if she thinks her late mate might be there. We had hopes that she'd find the pop hole and the chicken house and roost with us at last, This was not to be, and at dusk she once again whirred away across the East Field. We decided to leave her to it.

George likes to share a bath with Smudge
Today has been similar. She woke us with her 'buckwheat buckwheat' at 0600 over in the hedge and when I'd done my 0730 feed and release rounds I went to collect her. Spotting me from her nice high perch, she took off and whirred across the eats field towards home. I nipped back and into the East Field thinking I might have to show her the gate. Not a bit of it. She sensed that I was trying to move her towards the boundary and took off again, flew over the chicken house and landed in a group of hens in the cattle race.

Asparagus spear.
She has been around all day since then, with no more eastward exploring, staying round the house and, as I said, often sitting on window sills preening and looking in at us. She seems un-bothered by you being a few feet away as long as you are inside the glass. She has done plenty more exploring and running rings round the house but neither of us has actually seen her go in through the pop hole. We suspect that tonight she will do her eastward nip and find that reassuringly high perch in the hedge at our east boundary; it's a well overgrown hedge which includes mature ash and sycamore. She was about ten feet up this morning, so nice and fox/mink proof, we hope. Tomorrow, I may try leaving her to come 'home' by herself, rather than going over and rounding her up.

Damsel fly nymph case from the pond today. 
When I feed the chooks here I give a distinctive two-tone whistle and also tap the plastic beaker (I use as a feed measure) on a handy post. She has had this a few times now and immediately stops 'buckwheat-ing' and takes notice, coming running with the other chickens if she is hungry, so I may be able to bring her home from here. Wish me luck.

Ultimately we wish she'd get friendly properly with Henry and Min and also start to roost in our chicken house. We hope too that the grief which has her 'buckwheat-ing' so often dulls. It is a heart rending noise and one you can do nothing to relieve. Poor old Blondie.


anne wilson said...

Glad to see that Blondie is still around, hopefully she will recognise that home is where you get fed. OH thought the photo of that horrible moth was great, me I just shuddered, ugh!

Matt Care said...

Not a fan of the moth as an idea, then?

anne wilson said...

Butterflies great, moths I wont even go into a room if there's one there.