Monday, 30 November 2015
Hooptedoodle #200 - Algernon the Kingpin
This last week has mostly been a thing of threads and patches, dominated by a few moments of panic involving my aged mother (which turned out to be less serious than they might, but which consumed a lot of time, nervous energy and diesel oil). One relative bright spot has been the spectacle provided by our local wildlife, greatly excited by the Contesse's decision to keep the bird feeders stocked.
We have a long-standing tradition that our garden really belongs to the cock pheasant of the moment. Around this time of year there is a lot of fighting, though I'm not sure why. These standing champions are great characters - many of them have had names - the earliest I knew was Percy (circa 2000), then there were The Curate, a fine lunatic named Reg (short for Road Reg, because of his habit of attacking passing vehicles), Daft Baldy and many others. The current incumbent is Algernon - pictured at the top of this post.
One thing they all have in common is that they are very unlikely still to be around come the Spring, since there are numerous shooting parties here on the farm around Christmas (which, of course, lest we become too emotional, is the reason the pheasants are here in the first place). The brighter, the more splendid the specimen, the greater his chance of ending the day of the shoot slung over someone's shoulder, on a string.
In the meantime, there is much activity directed towards establishing seniority. The Contesse's pictures show moments from two simultaneous battles from last week. They look clumsy and ridiculous, but these boys mean business - great handfuls of feathers were blowing about after the fighting. The last of the pictures here has not exactly frozen the detail of the action, but you can make out one of the losers retreating in a vertical direction, to reconsider his tactics. They fly with no grace at all - lots of noise - like a demented bag of carrots.
We also had a further two incidents which were too quick to be photographed, alas. A roe deer came into the garden from the wood behind our house, decided our garden gate was too formidable an obstacle to jump and headed back the way he had come - leaving me floundering in his wake, trying to reach a camera. We also had a lightning visit from a sparrowhawk, which failed to catch a Blue Tit on the nut feeder, and which also failed to notice that a male Greater Spotted Woodpecker was sharing the feeder with the tit. One peck from the GSW and the sparrowhawk thought better of the whole idea - these guys are unbelievably fast, but I wouldn't back one against Old Woodie. The hawks seem to regard our feeders as a sort of buffet for their benefit, but they lack the finesse, not to mention intelligence, to take full advantage.
On a more peaceful note, here is a pleasing picture of a plump Song Thrush, with his beak all muddy from rooting around under the bark chips, looking for biddies. Not for him the peanut feeder - Thrushie likes his grub when it's still moving.