Wednesday, 21 May 2014


Hubbard chicks at Day 21
Either our bushy tailed red 'friend' got wind of our evil intentions for him or he's way too cunning and wise to return to the same place the morning after when you might be waiting for him. He has failed to show on the last 2 mornings and the dogs have had neither scent nor sound of him and none of us have seen him. Nor did Mike the Cows who came to check on his cattle with a shot gun (broken) under his arm see anything.

All cleaned up, his fighting days done.
Our current alpha-male, Buffers.
Mike tells me that strolling around at 06:30 is no way to 'get' your fox anyway. You never see the chap, never mind get time to un-break, aim and fire. 'Round here' they would tend to go out as a gun club of a night 'lamping'; using powerful searchlights mounted on 4 x 4 trucks and shooting the yellow reflective pairs of eyes. It is unpopular though and many residents object to the engines and gun shot noise in the fields at night, so the more common method is to set snares (they say 'shnares' here). Mike happily explained this all to me, telling me where I could get good 'shnares' for 'a fiver' and how to set them in the little nip-through holes that Mr Fox uses in the hedgelines; preferably where there is a drop down so that the fox, having caught his neck in your wire, then hangs by his neck on your shnare over the drop with his feet unable to touch the ground. Nice.

Goldie's kittens are now exploring the grass. 
Well, I am sorry, but I am not about to start snaring (or even shnaring) any kind of animal. I do not mind despatching them in a quick and clean way, but the thought of a fox being slowly throttled from 8pm or so when I set the snare, to 6 am when I check them does not sit well with me. I suspect even Mike may be spinning me a yarn about how frequently they use these deadly methods. He has told me on another occasion that he bought his gun (which looks like a good one, though I've no idea really) 8-9 years ago for €2200 and has only fired it about 10 times in that period. Also that unless your cows with calves are well used to the gun noise (and he suggested that very few are) then they get really upset by the noisy intrusion. No over-loaded gibbet of corpses dripping fresh blood there then!

These later quince flowers only got a little wind-burned
So 'our' fox remains at large and seems to be staying away, at least during daylight hours. I did see him today, however, nipping across our lane at 4pm in front of my dog-walk, so we are not complacent and we are being very careful to lock everybody down as early as we can get away with it. We wonder whether he might be able to explain the disappearance of 'Blondie' but he's not coming forward to volunteer his testimony.

'Goz-1' on his hot water bottle before we rigged the heat lamp.
Meanwhile, I left you at the previous post (in a comment, anyway) with our first hatch of a gosling. This should be an exciting and happy time but sometimes these things do not go quite to plan. I had a dream of a little row of a dozen goslings following Mum to the pond for a sunny photo-shoot. Sadly we have only had the one so far (despite Black Feather and her original 12 eggs now being 8 days overdue; of which more in a later post) and that one has been ignored by the Mum and Aunt.

It floats!
We did not see them actually eject it from the nest, but they were definitely not helping it back in, so twice on its 2nd day we had to rescue it and try to return it (which got us soundly hissed at and pecked by the sitters, though they did 'allow' the baby back in to the nest edge but did not draw it back into their warm skirts). The third time it was shivering in a corner, so we rescued it and Liz had the idea of sneaking it under the broody Buff hen. That seemed to work.

Cuckoo Marans 'hin' strolls on the lawn.
We fancied we could see a new contented look come over her face as the unaccustomed warm wriggling form moved under her breast. I sat and watched for half an hour and then all seemed to be well; we left them to get to know one another. Half an hour later though, he was out on his ear again and this time Mrs Buff was not letting him back, and she tried to peck him. Well, now we were out of birdy options, so to cut a long story short he is in the brooder box under a heat lamp and we are trying to hand rear him. Thank you to Anne for the advice on this one - there is plenty to worry about.

Evening, 3 Westie romp in the orchard
If your 'chick crumb' feed is medicated for coccidiosis (many brands are) then it can be lethal to waterfowl. (Ours isn't, luckily). You need to worry about the baby 'imprinting' on you the human, thinking you are parent and then not being able to socialise properly with geese. We seem to have got away with that one - this baby spent the vital first day and a half in the goose house and met both females and George the gander. Today we showed him to George while safe inside his crate and the pair bonded gently through the bars - George seeming to be 'showing' Goz-1 how to pull and eat grass and chuntering at him, Goz-1 trying to touch beaks with 'Dad' through the wire. No-one tried to kill anyone else. It was a touching scene.

The old apple tree almost swamped by the beech and ash.
We are hoping that if more goslings hatch we might be able to sneak him back into the clutch. It can also help to suspend a mop head over the pen so he can sneak under and feel like he is being mothered. Ah well. He is drinking plenty of water and from today (his day 3) taking plenty of food from a tea spoon and from the ground, so there is more hope currently than there was when we rescued the little mite, his pathetic body wracked with spasms of shivering, while still wobbling in that half-co-ordinated way baby birds have who are still too young to have left the nest-bowl yet and should be just flopping around between the unhatched eggs, all warm under their Mum.

Hairpin bend in the apple tree trunk, the 'elbow' leaning
on the big ash. Bottom arrow shows main trunk. 
It's not all worry, mind. We have made a rather nice discovery. An old apple tree dating from TK Max's day, right down on our North border by a collapsed corrugated iron toilet-shed, is in bloom! This tree was first remembered by John Deere Bob is a gnarly old bent and ancient thing. Only about 8 feet 'tall' it actually has a main trunk perhaps 15 feet long but it grows from a bank almost horizontally till it leans an 'elbow' on a big ash tree and turns back droopily to get its branches and foliage almost back into our new pig-patch. This tree was so bent and broken looking that we assumed it was lost in the hedge, 'buried' under beech and ash growth and well over-topped by the black spruce. But today Liz found blossom on it, so we wonder whether it might bear fruit and, even if we can't rescue this tree, we might be able to take a scion and graft it onto a root-stock to save the DNA and the potentially old variety. Perhaps this old fellow has out-foxed its historic, neglectful human keepers?

1 comment:

carolyn said...

Remember George was hand reared and put with ducklings. He turned out grand although he did think he was a duck for a while!