These warm evenings mean we can sleep with the window open. Besides a pleasant night breeze, I can hear any chicken stirrings or unwanted predators. One is usually caused by the other. At 1.30am I jumped out of bed - I could hear chickens being attacked. I looked out the window and all was calm in our garden. It was Simon the gardener's chickens. He's only a couple doors down from us (door number four in a village with six doors in total).
I took the shepherd and a flashlight, and jogged down the road. Dakota will see off any predator and I hoped we could help if Simon and his brood were in trouble. No fox. All the chickens were fine. Theories are that a rat got in or the neighbor's cat had been the culprit. They were just a bit spooked.
Simon's lucky that I sleep in pyjamas. I got back home and found Mike standing in the garden in his birthday suit (which I told him needs ironing).
Other chickens were not so lucky last night. Ronnie, another underkeeper, shot a fox in his chicken run while it feasted on one of his hens. And down the Big House, a hen brooding on eggs was taken off her nest. It's always the hens. I think we might go out tonight with a rifle and a lamp and see if we can stop any foxes before they drop by for another visit.
My crow traps have gone quiet again. I sometimes think when I'm "controlling" the crows and magpies if, in future years, we will be working to protect them. I was looking at a book from a century ago about large sparrow hunts. House sparrows were considered a pest and hunted in great numbers. Something to do with thatched roofs (rooves?) on houses which were the norm then (they are not uncommon now). Whether they nested in there or ate it, I have no idea.
In the past few years, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds decreed that house sparrows, along with starlings (also previously a pest species), are on the decline. I feed the birds in my garden to help re-establish the numbers. One century's pest is another's protected species.
The common buzzard (Buteo buteo) courtesy www.english-country-garden.com
Buzzards, a sort of hawk, are increasing in numbers so much that there has been a push to take away their protected status. Gamekeepers traditionally loathe buzzards because of their taste for young pheasants, but aren't allowed to shoot or trap them. I found a dead buzzard this morning while walking the dogs. It hadn't been shot, and there was no outward sign of trauma (see, what did I tell you, there should be an CSI: Woodlands). Overpopulation can result in the death of weaker members of a species. Maybe dead buzzards will become a more common sight.
Gamekeeping students have been here today helping with jobs on the shoot. This has freed me to catch up with paperwork and make dinner, not just tonight's but tomorrow's too (Lamb lasagne in case you're desperate to know). For the first time in days we're eating dinner before 10pm. I'm eating mine while I write this. My multitasking is improving.
As a woman I'm supposed to excel at multitasking, but as I get older I've reached the point where my multitasking skills are being hindered by my ageing brain. I've adapted by making sure that one of the two tasks being done simultaneously is a no-brainer task. For example: