Tag Archives: fox

Natural History from the Car

As I drove to Newark this afternoon I noticed a group of rooks whirling aimlessly round the sky. On looking closer I realised they weren’t being aimless, but were in fact mobbing a buzzard. here were about 20 of them, though it wasn’t that easy to drive safely and count rooks at the same time.

Shortly after that I passed a roadside tree full of strange ball-like growths in its leafless branches – mistletoe in its natural state.

A bit later in the same journey I had to brake sharply when a large fox decided to run across the road. You don’t see many foxes in the middle of the day, and this is the first time I’ve ever had to put the brakes on to avoid one. It looked healthy and well-fed so I’m not sure why it needed to be out and about. Sometimes things are meant to remain a mystery.

The only other bit of natural history was a buzzard roosting in the roadside tree. Always nice to see, but let’s face it – they aren’t rare these days. It just goes to show what’s about, even on a grey day of driving round doing errands.

The picture is a random pansy. They are out in the garden so I thought it would be OK to show one.

 

 

Just Chilling Out

Julia is out tonight. It was something she organised a month ago and  I made her go even though she’s worried about leaving me alone.

Her worries are that I may fall over or starve to death. Starve? That set alarm bells ringing. How long is she planning on being away? Only for the evening, it seems. I can’t see that being a problem as I have enough stored fat to last a while. Look at the self-portrait if you don’t believe me. I have what estate agents refer to as an “extensive frontage”.

As for falling over, I have a mobility aid (or stick, as they used to be known) and enough padding not to damage too easily.

However, this isn’t to say that she has nothing to worry about. I may be safe, but it’s not the same as being sensible. Armed with several litres of what Bob Flowerdew calls personal liquid waste I have made a start on reclaiming the garden. We’ve been having trouble with dogs fouling a spot in the corner of the front garden and I’ve decided to fight back. We had an urban fox problem at one time, and did successfully move them on using urine (applied via watering can, in case you are wondering). Direct application isn’t really an option for a front garden in a suburban street.

I’m thinking of this as a kind way of moving them on. Stage 2, if this doesn’t work, is to use a solution of chillis. If I have to escalate to stage 3 I may have to abandon organic solutions and opt for Jeyes Fluid.

I will say no more, as I don’t want this to be used in evidence against me.

While she was out I went shopping for tea, which was Heinz Tomato Soup with a cheese and spiced shallot sandwich. It’s not the last word in healthy eating, but Heinz Tomato Soup is almost a medicine so I think I’m OK, particularly as I had an orange, a banana and a chocolate rabbit afterwards. The rabbit was half price – so it’s a vegetable and it’s a bargain.

 

 

Raindrops and Carvings

Owing to the disorganised nature of my blogging I’m now going to write about Thursday, even though it’s Sunday night. In fact it will be Monday morning by the time I press the button.

It was raining on Thursday  and Julia was busy all day with various tasks. That’s what happens when you are a pillar of society, people keep asking you to do things.  Nobody needed me for anything, so, with no supervision from my better half, I had a whole day in which to loaf.

First call was to some friends with a jewellers shop.  After dragging Julia round Lincolnshire on Valentine’s Day I thought a visit to a specialist in vintage jewellery who gives discounts for cash could be a good idea, particularly as I’d bought the flowers a week early because they were cheaper.

(I may have been put on this earth to be Julia’s soulmate, but I’m not convinced that I was put here to line the pockets of florists at peak times for sales of red roses.)

After that it was off to do some shopping and then, despite the rain, I felt the need for ducks. As you can see from the photographs, the waterproof plumage of waterfowl works well in the rain.

Despite many notices about not feeding the pigeons people keep doing it. They also keep throwing handfuls of food into the pond and around its margins. I don’t mind the pigeons (though I do wish people would read the notices) but I do mind the idea of attracting rats and fouling the water with decayed foodstuffs. At least nobody feeds bread, though I’m not sure what genius decided to dump a box of breakfast cereal .

Last time I visited they had cut down a tree on the island. Today I was amazed to see that it had been carved into a variety of figures, including a duck, a fox, a hedgehog and a heron. They are all good, though the Heron is particularly appropriate as it stands just yards from the place where we often see the real Heron.

It’s also appropriate as Arnold is derived from the old name Ernehale (Place of the Heron). Sometimes this is rendered as Place of the Eagle. but I’ve only ever seen Erne used as an archaic term for Heron.

If you follow the link you will also see a reference to the Hawksley and Davison mill that used the duck pond as its millpond.

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.

 

Trials and Tribulations

Sorry for the lack of communication this week, it’s been one of those weeks. Whether I can accurately describe it as hectic, or whether I should just put it down to lack of application is one of those grey areas. There has certainly been plenty happening, but I have also spent a lot of my spare time in displacement activities.

I was going to rectify this as soon as we arrived on the farm this morning but the flock of chickens that came to look at us as we unlocked the centre indicated that all was not well.

They are supposed to be on the field by the vegetable plot. I sometimes wonder if we are a little tactless in putting them so close to the carrots and potatoes that will accompany them to whatever afterlife a chicken may have, but what they don’t know won’t worry them. The same goes for feeding apple pulp to the pigs after we have been juicing.

We’re not sure what had happened but it looks like someone has opened the doors and just let them out. One of them has a badly fitting bolt that needs leaning on to make it shut, and if it needs me to lean on it then you can be sure that no flapping chicken or gust of wind has accidentally opened it. Even if that had happened, what is the chance of the second coop opening too?

It’s either kids, the provisional wing of the Chicken Liberation Front or an egg collector with no common sense.

I hope they don’t do it again as we’re still in mourning over Nelson the white(ish) cockerel.  About a week ago I mentioned how the farmyard flock seemed to lead a charmed life regarding predators. Two days later we arrived to find a cloud of pale feathers and a distinct lack of cockerel. Looks like a fox caught him out. The main picture shows him from his good side – he was blind in the other eye, hence the name, and possibly why he didn’t see the fox in time.

Anyway, after some gentle persuasion most of them pottered back into the coops and the rest were safely locked away after some scrambling that looked like the training scene from Rocky.

Gingerbread, stones and scarecrows

It’s not long after my last post but I need to catch a day up.

Today was an old-fashioned kitchen day with the smell of gingerbread, the sound of happy kids and the clatter of gravel. There seems to be some sort of unwritten rule that kids under the age of 8 have to fill their friends’ pockets or shoes with small stones. It makes for quite a lot of sweeping up but acts as a cover for me as I throw handfuls into the raised beds to improve drainage.

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Then it was scarecrows. Did I mention we are having a scarecrow competition on Open Farm Sunday – 7th June? More importantly, did I mention you can enter a photograph by email?

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Yes, it’s a fox guarding my new bean trial. Don’t ask.