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.
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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.