Sunday 9 June 2013

Doubling in Size Each Week

We were told when we first started with the geese that goslings grow amazingly fast and 'seem to double in size every week'. You'd take that with a pinch of salt, wouldn't you, but we can report that it is very true. Ours are now two weeks old and seem to have suddenly put on a growth spurt in leg and feet size, neck length and body length. Their little wings have not grown yet and now seem to have been left behind in this race for size so that they now look like tiny vestigial stumps such as you'd expect on a flightless bird.

They continue to thrive and we are hoping they are leaving behind the 'vulnerable to hooded crows' stage. One little one continues to worry us a bit. We seem to have 5 big bruisers and one smaller one who seems to be always lagging behind, off on a world of his own, still pecking at grass when everyone else has moved on, or still dawdling round the pond when everyone else is out, dried off and preening. Yesterday at midday-ish when I went out to check I could see only 5 goslings so we feared the worst and went into 'search' mode, both Liz and I combing the grass, ditches and bumps in the ground. We gave up the search and thought him lost, gone for good.

Then at about 3 pm I was out there again and there were six again, so we assume he was off dawdling, got left behind but then, fortunately, the parent birds passed his way again and he heard them and came running.

We have had two small tragedies in the rabbit department, both maybe related to the hot weather and, maybe also to my inexperience and bad husbandry. You will recall that I found 4 of Padfoot's litter outside the nest box and wriggling in the dewy grass. I rounded them up and gave them a shallow 'tray' (the bottom 3 inches cut out of a box) to contain them. It did not occur to me that there might be other babies scattered about the 'bedroom'. On Saturday there were actually 5 in the tray, so either Mum had found one and brought him into the fold, or he'd crawled there. Unfortunately there was a 6th now lying in the gap between the back of the tray and the outside wall and this poor little mite had died of lack of Mum's milk. His little corpse was all slack and loose-skinned. I could kick myself.

Meanwhile I had looked into Ginny's box and her kittens seemed to be safe enough at the far end of the hay from the 'door', so I had not given them the tray and 'Berlin Wall' treatment. One of these little ones had managed to escape the nest and had gone on to escape the mesh run too (small gap underneath where the ground was not 100% flat) just before we, unawares, let the dogs into the orchard for their off-the-leads romp. Towser had found it and had it in his mouth when we rescued it. It managed a few gasps but then expired. I suspect that the sweltering heat is what is making the babies move about, to try to find somewhere cooler, so we have now put 5 inch high 'walls' in each box to stop escapes, moved the runs to more shady spots AND covered the tar-felt roofs with a good layer of cut, tall grass to stop the intense heat. Everybody seems to be sleeping happily and it is much much cooler in those hutches. I should just say that this, on the latest count, leaves Pads with 5 babies and Ginny with 5-6.

Meanwhile, the horses have been moved, by means of electric fences, to the front lawn and primrose path. They seem to prefer this kind of grass - regrown mower-aftermath to the long straggly, not-yet-cut stuff. Suits me - less mowing of lawns for me. It is also quite fun that they can now come right up to us when we are lazing at the terrace table on the front terrace and we think it looks very picturesque from the lane outside to see three horses on the lawn, swishing their tails or rolling luxuriously on their backs in the sunshine.

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