You have been warned. I'll wait, if you want to go make a cup of coffee first.
We finished hatching. This year in total we put 54,500 pheasant eggs through our machines. About 80% hatched, and most were sold to other shoots. Pip enjoyed her new job as Hatching Supervisor -
The job involves blocking the doorway while watching the activities in the hatching room. Pip is so loved that, even though she was completely in the way of constant traffic through that door, everyone stepped over her and gave her a pat rather than moving her. Age has its perks.
Our pheasant chicks have grown and many are in their woodland pens now, doing exciting pheasant stuff like eating, roosting, and wandering about exploring their new world. Our few partridge are growing too, and will go to wood this week if the weather stays dry.
We've had a higher-than-usual number of orphans to care for this season. Mostly birds, though yesterday underkeeper Ian brought me a hedgehog he found wandering in the road. It was healthy apart from a huge flea burden (sadly common in hedgehogs). I treated its fleas and let it go in the adjoining field where it happily tottered off soon after.
Our orphan bird success has been hit-and-miss. The woodpecker from the last post fledged fine, as did a mallard duckling after a week's care and feeding. A blue tit with a broken wing didn't make it. Our worst failure was 3 cygnets. They found Mike in the woods, and came wandering up to him while he was mending the net on a pheasant pen. Mike said he's never seen behaviour like it. He brought them home and I put them under a heat lamp (yes, in the kennels as usual).
They were all too thin. I googled "cygnet care", as one does, and then set off to check the ponds for pairs of swans without offspring. Perhaps the family just got separated. If I could find their parents, they would do a far better job of looking after them. There were no swans to be found. And my care must have been wanting as the trio died two days' later. Mike and I were really upset to lose them.
Speaking of strange behaviour - maybe you remember the Canada geese goslings we reared last year? Three of the four goslings flew away, but one with a wing that never healed right was unable to fly. So he (she?) wandered back to Ian's garden where the goslings were raised. The gosling was now a goose and ready to take a mate. With no eligible geese to hand, s/he chose the next best thing: a cocker spaniel-
The goose has pair-bonded with Tilly, Ian's cocker spaniel pup. Tilly seems fine with the arrangement and lets the goose groom her and feed out of her bowl; it does both by putting its head through the kennel bars. The goose tolerates Tilly's kennel mates, as long as they don't get too close to the pair.
Nature is a funny thing.
There are a few changes in our own kennels. Hadley Bubbles failed out of gun dog school. She's not a willing retriever and she lacks confidence needed to work away from her handler. But with her sweet temperament and laid back attitude, she would make a great pet.
My aunt Meg, who's forgot more about dogs than I know, just lost her last golden retriever to cancer. Meg offered not only to adopt her, but flew over from the US and took Hadley back with her, making sure the plane ride and long drive from Boston to Maine were comfortable for the dog.
I get regular pupdates from Meg and the partnership is working out great. Hadley gets to stay in the family and has the Maine woods for her backyard. She's a success as a pet dog. I will leaver her picture up in the margin of the blog and post pupdates, as we still consider her part of the team.
Podge our cocker spaniel is recovering from surgery yesterday. She's in a crate next to me as I write, with her favourite toy as company and Pip snoozing nearby-
Podge had some tumours removed from her belly and I had her spayed at the same time. We're waiting for the lab results to tell us whether the tumours are benign or cancerous. The x-rays showed no signs of spreading to the lungs, which is an hopeful sign.
Recovery will take some time and Spud will have to fill from Podge until she gets the all-clear to go back to work.Until then, Spud and some of the others are taking advantage of the bounty of fruit in the orchard. There is a browse line on the pear trees the height of the tallest retriever stood on two legs-
Here comes Gertie bounding in from the right to help!
It's a pick-your-own free for all! Spud also found my squash plants and will pick and eat a summer squash if I don't keep an eye on her.
Cheyenne is still just a puppy, but you wouldn't know it from her size -
She's only 7 months old in that photo. She's even bigger now. She idolises Molly who, for the most part is teaching Chi good habits like come when you're called and be nice to visitors (they have biscuits!). Unfortunately, Molly has also taught Chi the exciting fun to be had digging for moles in the orchard.
I regret nothing...
Chi is a quick learner and has much bigger paws than Molly. They have caught and dispatched a few moles, so it's not all bad even if the orchard looks like it's been hit in a bombing raid.
Mike's just told me the housekeeper is on her way over with some guinea fowl chicks that have been abandoned by their mother. Thank god it's not swans again.
I'll leave our update here, so I can get a kennel ready for the chicks' arrival. I'll talk sheep and goats in the next part of the update. Stay tuned.