Thursday, 6 November 2014

First Frost Winter 2014/15

Well, I'm back!!!

The blog has been on a birding break for autumn. While it's been away, I've been to Shetland for a week (exciting birding with such waifs as White's Thrush, Siberian Rubythroat, Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, Myrtle Warbler, Swainson's Thrush), Barra (Outer Hebrides) for a day trip (for a Scarlet Tanager which hid for 7 hours and only came out for half an hour - luckily just as we arrived), Cornwall (another day trip and a big 840 mile dip), Cleveland (another dip), Norfolk... Oh, and I've spent some time on the smallholding too, mostly gathering in the harvest.

I guess a quick catch up is in order.

Well, this morning we had the first frost of the year. With only one light frost during the whole of last winter, some of the poultry were clearly puzzled by their water being frozen!

Frosty fleeces.
Fortunately the Shetlands are well adapted
for tough conditions
Some of the sheep are almost ready to go off on their final journey. They've certainly been doing a good job of munching down the grass. I've moved my Shetland ram (really must think of a name for him) in with four of the Shetland ewes. The two who had twins last year are getting a rest. The White-faced Woodland continues to escape and has been moved to the top paddock to keep the two girls company. They do like to boss him about.

Is it Boxing Day yet?
With Christmas (yes, I've mentioned the 'C' word) looming, the turkeys are growing fast. They have proven to be very likeable characters, much friendlier than we expected. I'm sure that won't stop us enjoying one for Christmas dinner though!

I can't remember how many guinea fowl keets there were when I last blogged, but it's been a difficult time for them. Some very wet weather back in September made survival of the chicks a very precarious affair and we came out of that with just 7 youngsters. When they were big enough, mum stopped going into a hut for the night and took them onto the fence, which resulted in another two disappearing overnight. We then had the nightly ritual of catching the remaining five and putting them in with Elvis and her fast growing chicks. Just a few days ago I took the decision that they could fend for themselves at night. Unfortunately yesterday I found another one perished so we are down to four. It all sounds a bit sad, but it wouldn't be right to confine the guinea fowls. Of all the birds we keep, they behave the most like wild birds and in the wild four survivors would be plenty enough to sustain the size of the flock. It just means that we don't get to sell any and that guinea fowl will remain be a special treat on the menu.

I mentioned Elvis. Our faithful broody is now the last of the original chickens which came with the farm when we purchased it. She has successfully reared another clutch of chicks. They have grown well and are remarkably bold. In fact a couple of them hop up into the feed bucket even when I'm carrying it around!

Another hen was determined to have her own chicks too. She tried several corners of the stables before eventually managing to keep secret a stash of 18 eggs. But she was disturbed on the night the chicks started hatching which resulted in the loss of a couple of new born chicks and the abandonment of the unhatched eggs. However, she has come out of it with 5 healthy chicks (there were six, but one got stick under an overturned dish and Sue only discovered this unfortunate mishap when it was too late.)

And lastly the bees. They have finally gone to bed after staying out very late this year. Hopefully the weather won't trick them into coming out again and they can reappear stronger than ever in the spring.

So here's looking forward to 2015!

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