Tuesday 20 February 2018

Brer Fox Comes Back for a Goose

Not a clean death - she was covered in puncture bite marks
and badly bruised. We think the neck wound was inflicted
when the fox tried to pull the carcass through the sheep wire. 
Our fox left us 10 days after taking the duck, in which to relax, start thinking he was a one-off and maybe drop our guard a little. Then he sneaked back at 4 pm on a Saturday. Luckily for him (or her, of course, foxes are almost impossible to sex on a fleeting glimpse) he chose a time when I was off site and Elizabeth was hoovering, so that she did not hear the Guinea Fowl alarm-call cacophony until it was too late.

A good old fashion (goose) stew with
I was out at a gentle, afternoon, drinkless, family and friends gathering for the 60th birthday of my archery coach, Con, and heading home at half past 4. At roughly the same time, Elizabeth finished the hoovering, killed the noise and heard the Guinea Fowl clamour. She raced outside and found one GF high up a tree, giving out all manner of dog's abuse, which is never a good sign. Casting around she could find no cause for the racket but we know and trust these birds, so we keep looking for as long as it takes, or they stop the screaming.

Goosey Gumbo? This lovely soup (over rice) made a fitting
end to the fox's abandoned prize. 
Then she saw the sad white shape right at the bottom of the orchard against the fence. It was straight away obvious what had happened - the fox had got into the orchard, killed the goose and then dragged her to the fence. Unluckily for the fox, this was a big, 5-6 kg bird he had chosen, so he could not jump back out of the orchard with his prize.

The day after losing her 'sister', one of the
survivors gives us the first goose egg of
He'd put it down by the fence, jumped the fence unladen, then tried to pull the goose through the fence. It was too big a goose to fit through, so he'd presumably spotted Elizabeth bearing down on it and fled the scene. She never actually saw the fox. She'd just about time to carry the body back to the shed and hang it up to bleed out a bit, and shepherd the survivors to safety, when I pulled in to the drive way and heard the sorry tale. We didn't know at that point, whether the victim was one of those females I'd been waiting to start laying eggs, or our belovéd gander, Gorgeous George. It was the former.

Still spoiled rotten and sleeping indoors at this stage, Lily and
the month old lamb, Tigger. 
The plucking took place that evening, when the bird proved to be so full of puncture holes and bite marks, that Liz decided to skin the bird instead, half way through plucking. This goose was going down the 'stew' route. At the gutting stage it turned out that the bird also had half a dozen part-formed eggs up her 'pipework', the largest of which was almost laying-size and could only have been a day away from our long awaited "First Egg of 2018".

Outdoors now - breakfast with Mum and Aunts on
Monday morning.
Long story short, the goose became a superb stew and dumplings, the gribbly bits went in the wheelie bin and a great pile of white feathers went on the compost heap. The latter fact is the most significant because our furry, bushy-tailed friend came back for his lost prize the next day (Sunday) at about half past eleven. This time we were both up and about when the Guineas kicked off, we raced outside, each via a different route and caught the lad in the act of sniffing the pile of feathers on the compost heap, right up by our cattle race. He scarpered, of course, when our 2 heads appeared round either end of his covering wall, galloping off and clearing the 3-4' sheep wire into the pig-pen without breaking stride. He paused briefly to see how serious we were and then shot off down the pig-pen and cleared to bottom fence the same way, vanishing off down the bog field below us.

A 2018 first, the new kitchen windows are
thrown open to let some warm air through
as the sun shines brightly outside. Spring
is here. 
In a surprising parallel to Sue and Rob's garden-fox mentioned in a previous post (10th Feb), to get to the compost, the fox must have come in over the fences again but through the gangs of surviving geese and ducks, ignoring them. My guess is that he came first to the piece of fence where he'd left the goose in such a hurry, and once there, could either see or smell the "dead one" (he wouldn't have know it was only a pile of feathers) 40 yards away on the compost. I assume that had we not disturbed him, he'd have quickly worked out that he needed to kill another bird and done that (or more) on the way out.

Naturally we are back on high alert, Fox-Watch for all the hours that the birds are out of their sheds and free ranging. We have also abandoned all our optimistic foolish ideas that this might be a one-off, fox, a 2017 youngster turfed out of the home earth and roaming around looking for a territory to call his own. He came on the 2nd Jan, took the duck on 8th Feb, and has now come back on the 17th and 18th. He is now a local and regular visitor, though he didn't come back on Monday or today. While he is all unpredictable and careful, there is little we can do about this except keep watch and listen to what those Guinea Fowl tell us. However, if he starts to get regular, predictable and a bit complacent, then we have some options. Wish us luck.

Briefly chaotic Living Room scene, books
It is never ALL bad news though. The next day, one of the other geese laid her first egg of 2018 so we are back in that 'game' and the waiting is over. The ewe Lily refused to come 'home' that evening to her indoor pen in the Tígín as we've done happily for 4 weeks now and seemed to want to go, instead, into the East Field where her 'sisters' have been all along. I let her in and closed the gate on her happy re-union. It was a warm evening, so I decided that she was all done on the 'Intensive Care', indoor housed thing. Tigger is a big, bouncing, plump, chunky lad at this stage and no more likely to die of his sister's hypothermia that is his fully-fleeced Mum. They have slept out ever since (all be it they actually sleep in the shelter with the other girls) and I have been able to muck out the pen ready for the next mum+lamb. This looks like it might be first-timer Rosie, from the 'bagging up' evidence, or Polly, from the 'I want to be alone' sleeping behaviour.

One of the book walls!
Finally, Elizabeth finally made it to IKEA in Dublin to buy 2 more of their excellent, full height, 80 cm wide, flat packed "Billy" book cases. There are, obviously, a gazillion books here and the cases we have have been double stacked and overflowing for too many months. Liz finally cracked, girded her loins and went to do battle with IKEA. The boxes, although almost 7 feet long, fit neatly into our little Fiat Panda with all the doors shut; you just post them in the back hatch and slide them down into the passenger side foot-well. Brilliant. Well, now they are assembled (by the Flat-pack Queen) and full of books after a massive, day-long sort-out. We are so tidy, we won't know ourselves.

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