Free seed and nature watch

Julia had a quick word with the man we refer to as The Gamekeeper today.

Before you run away with the idea that we’re bankrolled by a rich farmer (as several local projects have stated),I’d better point out that we aren’t, and that we are very far from a sporting estate. Go somewhere like the Elveden Estate, as we did a while ago on our trip to Thetford, and you will see a big difference. Elveden is brilliant and clearly well-un and well-financed. You also have an immediate feeling for the generations of forelock tugging that have gone into making it what it is. No criticism, not (much) jealousy – it’s just like being in a different world compared to the chaos and cheese-paring that is my daily life.

Our shoot is run by a man who pays  to run a shoot on the land and, with a group of shoot volunteers, controls vermin, plants hedges and wildlife cover and does a variety of odd jobs around the place at weekends and in the evenings.

He’s more a nature warden than an old-fashioned type of gamekeeper, though he does make a hole in the magpie, fox and rabbits populations.

Considering that a fox killed 40 chickens in one night a few years ago, have trimmed the free range guinea fowl flock and ate Nelson the one-eyed cockerel not so long back, I don’t have a lot of sympathy with them. I wouldn’t like to exterminate them, I wouldn’t chase them to exhaustion and rip them to pieces with a pack of hounds but I don’t see that it’s my job to maintain the population by feeding them my poultry.


Same with the rabbits – they are nice enough, but I’m not here to provide them with a banquet of salad every night.

Magpies – the jury is out. Some people think they are responsible for the decline in songbird species, some don’t.  They have certainly spread over the years, being common now in places I never saw them as a youthful birdwatcher. Like buzzards and curlews they were birds I only saw on holiday or visiting grandparents in the north-west.

Anyway, it was a fruitful conversation (to get back to the main subject) and he has offered us free bird seed for the winter, which is good.

He also told her that he saw a large group of young blue tits on the feeders a few nights ago, so at least someone has seen them since the nest box went quiet. We thought it was a bout time they went but weren’t quite sure. He also said he sees little owls at night – they roost on the rails of the fence that runs behind the feeder – something else to look out for!

Hatching egg report – we now have 5 so we are on stream to start hatching next Wednesday.


9 thoughts on “Free seed and nature watch

  1. derrickjknight

    Excellent post, Quercus. (even though I know your name, I just love Quercus). We had a third of an acre garden in Newark. Consequently we had lots of songbirds. There was a magpie cycle. Lots of songbirds (25 nests at one count) in any one year, meant lots of magpies. The following year far less of both. Songbirds increased next year. Magpies returned. And so on ad infinitum

    1. quercuscommunity

      More carrion on the roads, less control from keepers? Both help but they don’t explain why they waited until the 1980s to increase, or why they prosper in my carrion-free street. I like them, but we can often see 4-6 just on our street – which is too many.

      1. quercuscommunity

        I’ve sometimes seen as many as 3 foxes in the street at night too – nice to see but also looking rough as they don’t have enough food. Nature is all about balance isn’t it?

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