Partridge are pairing up. Hares are moving too; the phrase ‘mad as a march hare’ refers to their boxing competition for breeding rights. Our hare population is so small, there appears to be room for everybody, so no fighting is necessary.
courtesy of www.geoffreyfieldjuniorschool.co.uk
Our pheasants have started laying too - 3,000 of them. We picked up eggs for the first time today, and we’ll set our first hatch on the 30th. Egg collecting causes a kind of madness. Seven days a week, rain or shine, for the next three months. Mike has already poured me a large gin and tonic to help ease my trauma
It’s not just the animals that are pairing up. Our young underkeeper has a new girlfriend. The local farmer-oracle summed it up: “T’will pull a man farther than gunpowder will blow ‘im”.
Besides egg picking, the other spring chore on the gamekeeper’s calendar is vermin control. We have traps set for magpies, moles, crows, rats, grey squirrels, and foxes. I have a personal vendetta against the rats. Rats ate my entire garlic harvest last year and a good percentage of my potato harvest straight out of the garden. B*stards. They snack with impunity out of our chicken feeders and, most unforgivably, they have eaten the clutch of blackbird eggs out of the nest in our log pile.
This caught magpie is going to another trap, to lure in yet more magpies
Now I am on an unstoppable, one-woman rat annihilation mission: poison, rat traps, shovelling in holes. I even had a .410 laid out on the picnic table while I was digging over my vegetable garden because a rat kept peeking out from beneath a hedge. I got a shot at it and missed, though I think I scared an extra dozen eggs out of the chickens with the noise.
Gotcha! One down, about a bajillion to go...
Mike is trying to teach me to set snares for foxes. Snares are legal as long as they haven't got a self-locking mechanism. That way, if something harmless finds its way into the snare, it's easy to loose the wire and let it go. Podge the cocker spaniel can attest to this.
A fox in a snare has to be shot. Last Sunday morning I was in the shower when the phone rang. I answered it in case it was Mike. It was. He needed a shot gun to dispatch a fox. I got out of the shower, still wet, and pulled on the nearest clothing - flannel pyjama bottoms with cartoon reindeer on them and a fleece from our feed merchant with FLUBENVET embroidered in big letters on the front. A woolly hat on my head completed the look, and I drove up to the field, shot the fox, came home, put the gun in the cabinet, and got back in the shower to wash soap out of my hair.
What do I have to do to get one civilised Sunday morning with croissants and a newspaper?! Not be married to a gamekeeper, that's what. Although, now I have the unique distinction of having shot a fox in my underwear AND in my pyjamas. How they got in there, I'll never know...(aaaand rim shot! Thank you, Groucho.). It's March madness I tell you.