Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A Christmas Stuffing!

Christmas day was lovely. Not too much drink at breakfast, so I avoided the usual early afternoon headache. Instead we had a lovely walk out with the dogs while the turkey was cooking. And Sue got presents, unexpected presents as I had spent the last couple of months priming her to think I was not doing Christmas at all this year. I got some lovely presents from Sue too.

Highlight of the day was the stuffed turkey. It went way beyond what I had expected. In fact I would go as far as to say the stuffing was one of the nicest things I have ever tasted.

So here's the recipe, as far as I can remember. It makes about 5 lbs of stuffing and we only needed about half of it to stuff a boned and rolled small/medium turkey. So you may well want to scale it right down.

If you make too much, the rest can be rolled into balls and frozen for later.



Here are the ingredients. We pretty much made it up and you can vary the amounts according to what you like.

  • 2 medium onions, chopped in food processor
  • 3 sticks celery, finely sliced
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • c60g butter for sweating down

Sweat these ingredients down until softened but not brown

  • 300g sausage meat (buy your favourite sausage and take off the skin)
  • about 500g bread (we used a mix of granary and bloomer) Slice thickly and toast lightly before whizzing into coarse breadcrumbs
  • 200g packet of chestnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g citrus candied peel
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms. Soak in a small bowl of boiling water for a few minutes and snip into smaller pieces (reserve the mushroom water)
  • 100g brazil nuts, roughly chopped in food processor
  • Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme, all finely chopped. Use lots if you like herbs. We used fresh from the garden.
Add all these ingredients and mix thoroughly
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Chicken stock cube. Vegetable stock cube.
Mix in the beaten eggs.
To your small bowl of mushroom water, add 1 chicken stock cube and 1 vegetable stock cube.
Mix enough of this liquid into the stuffing to bind everything together and achieve the consistency you want.

Finally season well with salt and pepper.
Take a small piece of stuffing and fry in oil to check for taste and seasoning.

And that's it! You won't believe how good it tastes.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Santa shows us how to stuff a turkey

Friday 23rd December 2016
So here he is. Santa!
This is what he does in the run up to Christmas,

I'll let you into a little secret. It's not really Santa. It is, in fact, Paul from the Cambridgeshire Self-Sufficiency Group, our friendly butcher but also one of the founders of the smallholding movement who has led a fascinating life. He still leads a fascinating life, for that matter.
It was pretty windy and there was a chill in the air, but Paul's Christmas poultry prep workshop was still held outside and Paul made no compromises with his wear. He always wears tee-shirt and shorts!

Of the two of us, Sue takes on most of the butchering duties. Today's task was to debone and stuff the turkey. We had deliberately not gutted the turkey as it would be good to get Paul to show us. There is always something to learn from an expert. In particular, we had not taken the tendons out from the legs. We had been shown this once before, but could only remember about half of it, enough to remove them with a moderate degree of success.
But Paul showed us how it was done properly and I took photos to aid our memories next time.

Paul sharpened our knives for us and we all then spent the next half hour or so anxiously watching Sue's fingers and periodically issuing reminders about how sharp the knives were.

With Paul's expert and patient guidance, Sue successfully cleaned and deboned the turkey.




We had improvised our own stuffing recipe, based loosely on the percentage ingredient list off a packet of Sainsbury's Taste The Difference stuffing which we found on the internet. We added a few more little luxuries and plenty of herbs from the garden. The result, I have to say, was the nicest stuffing I have ever tasted.
When I get round to it, I'll work out the exact ingredient quantities and post them. Without quantities, it was onion, celery, garlic, bread, sausage meat, cranberries, porcini mushrooms, citrus peel, brazil nuts, sage, rosemary, thyme, parsley, egg and chestnuts.


We spent all afternoon with Paul and his wife, Anne. They made us feel so welcome and Anne's cake went down very well indeed. Paul kept trying to persuade me to try one of his special malts, but I'm afraid I am no fan and it would have been wasted on me.

We headed home just as the sun was about to go down, but it wasn't long before a warning light came on in the car. I pulled over to discover that it was actually telling the truth. We had a puncture!

I know. I'll clean it!
Less than an hour later I had fitted the spare, we had gotten ourselves to our tyre shop just before it closed and the original tyre was back on, repaired with no charge.

Saturday 24th December 2016
To bring us bang up to date for Christmas, we spent Saturday in Stamford Christmas shopping for ourselves! I go shopping literally about twice a year, but I am quite good at spending money when I do go. Mountain Warehouse were having a sale and I treated myself to some proper wellies, some warm boots and some proper thick socks.
Prize for most exciting purchase of the day went to the packet of Arran Pilot seed potatoes I found in Wilko's. The 2017 growing season begins. These will go into the polytunnel for a super-early crop.

The main reason for our visit was to drop in at Moles Country Stores and pick up some new sheep wormer. Very Christmassy!

Finally, if you're reading this on the day, just to show that I am not a total bah humbug (though I am always disappointed when Scrooge gets 'converted' at the end of that story), MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Making The Most Of Our Extra Minute

Thursday 22nd December 2016
Well, the winter solstice passed without event. From here on in it's uphill all the way!

For me, this is effectively the New Year, a time to start looking forward, drawing up plans, getting excited.

But that could wait. Today we planned to make the very most of the extra minute of daylight. In the plans were a trip to Norfolk to take the dogs to the beach. This, as far as Boris and Arthur are concerned, is just about as good as it gets. We planned to meet up with friends too for a touch of brunch in a dog-friendly café. Of course, it might just be possible to squeeze in a little birding too.

The plan went well.

While Sue and the dogs played on the beach, I managed to check out the sea ducks and gulls offshore. The telescope brought them a little closer, but they were still a long way off.


Then it was off to The Artemis coffeeshop in Cley to meet up with a couple of new friends, two birders whose life experiences add up to about eight of my lives! Fascinating and inspirational. Boris and Arthur had an important job to do, for the young lad was very wary of dogs. Boris and Arthur needed to be true ambassadors for dogs, which they duly did by sitting up on the bench, rolling over and generally being very soppy.
They met another dog, Millie, too.


Peter used to be chief curator at the Natural History museum and informed us of some earth star fungi nearby which DNA samples have, apparently, just revealed to be a new species for the world!!! They were by this time of year a little past their best, but I was very happy to see my first ever earth stars.

There was time to stop off and scan through a large flock of geese to pick out the rarities. A red-breasted goose played hide and seek behind a ridge. So much so that I only managed to see it through somebody else's telescope. By the time I pointed mine in the right direction it had waddled out of view. A Canada Goose was in the same flock, not one of those you see round park lakes, but a proper one, a vagrant from the other side of the Atlantic.

A Todd's Canada Goose, all the way from America,
subtly different to the feral birds so common in our parks.
We were home just before dark. It had been a long day! Well, longer than yesterday, by a whisker.

There was just time to catch and dispatch another turkey. Tomorrow we head off to see Santa, who is going to help us stuff the turkey. Really.

Friday, 23 December 2016

A New Reason To Drink Beer!

Tuesday 13th December 2016

Lady Penelope appeared right outside the kitchen window today, accompanied by her "chick", which has certainly increased in size since the last time I saw it. It was a lovely day, so I decided to move the Shetland sheep right up to the end of the land where the grass is longer. They will gradually work back towards the farmhouse, by which time the grass should have recovered enough to feed them for a bit more. There's not much goodness or growth in the grass at this time of year, but as long as the weather stays mild the Shetlands, being a primitive native breed, will cope fine. They are a very low maintenance sheep.

Despite this, they have become pretty habituated to me now, so all I had to do was to untie the electric fence tape and they followed me right on through. They set about munching straight away, except for Rameses, the lamb we bottle fed who still likes to come for a cuddle.

There was another move for the poultry too. It looks as if they will be locked up inside for quite some time, but the turkeys have not seemed happy in the middle stable. In fact I'm not sure they've yet been down to the ground, spending all of their time in the rafters. So today I set about the not straightforward task of swapping over the turkeys and the laying hen flock.

It's not all about the animals though. There is still work to be done in the veg garden and there are still crops to be harvested, mostly roots which lie safely below the surface (if you ignore the unwanted attentions of voles and the occasional slug).
I can't remember if I mentioned it, but my parsnip crop this year has turned into a bumper crop, so much so that I stopped digging them after I'd dug less than a quarter of the bounty. Many were so long that I couldn't even get the whole root out of the ground.

So that was the morning taken care of. The days are short now, so after lunch I decided to take the dogs for a walk along the river. But our walk was sadly spoiled by a large group of shooters who rolled up in their vehicles and started trudging across the fields towards the patches of game cover. Apparently, riding a quadbike along a public footpath is perfectly acceptable, as is flushing a whole herd of wild swans.
I just stood on the river bank with Boris and Arthur watching proceedings, but when the first couple of shots went off I continued my walk along the footpath. Unfortunately I think this made it very difficult for them to carry on shooting and they eventually gave up and retreated to their four wheel drives to head off and invade another field.



Wednesday 14th December 2016
I got home from work today to find a mystery empty plastic bottle chewed up by the dogs. In general they are very well-behaved while we are away, but that may be because anything chewable is moved out of reach. We eventually figured out that the tube had been filled with a liquid silicone which is used for making drawers slide open easier. After hot-cross-bungate, which cost us several hundred pounds, this was the last thing we needed. We decided to just keep a very close eye on the dogs, which meant that they got to spend their first ever nights on the bed with us!
Fortunately all was fine.

Saturday 17th December 2016
Never mind bird flu! I have final succumbed to Sue's cold, though I think it has mutated into a serious strain of man flu.
Talking about bird flu, it was today announced that a turkey farm in North Lincolnshire has been hit by H5N8. This can only be bad new as far as us having to keep our poultry confined is concerned.













The turkeys seem slightly happier in the larger stable, but today two of the stags started fighting. This was inevitable, but bad news for one of them who was moved to separate accommodation.
Winter garden clearance continued, clearing beds, turning and spreading compost. The dogs helped by manically digging, though not necessarily where I wanted them too. Ah well! As long as they are having fun.


I collected the post as it was getting dark to find that my copy of this pioneering classic book had arrived. Lawrence Hills was pretty much the founder of the organic movement and this book was published back in 1971, when I was five years old.
I was engrossed for the rest of the evening and beyond, reading about rotation, compost and comfrey. Some was wildly out of date, much I knew already, but reading this book was still quite inspirational and got me fired up about planning the veg plot for 2017.

Reading a stranger's notes neatly penned around the edges of the pages was fascinating too and gave the book a deeper story.

Sunday 18th December 2016
The day started with the demise of Mr Turkey. It was only a couple of days ahead of schedule anyway, what with Christmas coming up and all that. He did manage to give me several whacks in the face with his wings before his eventual demise. Boris and Arthur were as usual very keen to help with proceedings. Note Arthur's almost perfect camouflage.

Along with the turkey went our spare drake Muscovy Duck, who I have only really been keeping as a reserve in case anything happens to the other drake. Three of the meat chickens met their maker too. Winter is a time when the livestock are 'thinned' to take advantage of summer and autumn's growth. It is only really the breeding stock, the egg birds and any which need to grow on a bit more who get kept into the winter.

The Muscovy trio and the egg-laying hens are safe and happy in their stable.
The dogs continued to 'help out' as I cleared the asparagus bed and piled on compost to give the bed renewed strength.


Best news of the day was that I discovered a new reason to drink beer!!!
I have been using cheap tennis balls to cover the tops of poles over which to drape bird netting. I thought it was rather clever and original until I read a recommendation in the Lawrence Hills book to do exactly the same but using jam jars instead.
As I was plundering the garage for saved jam jars, I came across several saved glass beer bottles and it struck me that these are perfectly designed for the task.

A Pedigree design!
Final job of the day, before darkness fell, was to move the willow branch which has been edging the small pond I put in the veg plot.
This willow branch has taken root in the pond and thrown up a whole row of tall shoots.
Today I moved it and buried the log in the soil where I want it to grow. I am going to place willow logs across all the ponds now as I have an idea for a rather snazzy row of willows along the farm boundary behind the pig pen.
It has been a busy weekend, especially for the dogs who have been very busy helping out.
Sunday night called for a rest.

... until Gerry found a mouse in the living room.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Let's Hope The Big Bad Wolf Doesn't Hear About This

Sunday 11th December 2016
Not that it is a very hierarchical group, but Mick is pretty much the main man at Cambridgeshire Self-Sufficiency Group. He is running a Pig Club whereby a group of people share a couple of piglets. We were in a similar pig co-op last year, as pigs need to be kept at least in two's but two pigs is rather a lot to go in the freezer so sharing makes sense.
Sue and I are not in the Pig Club but decided to go along and help with some fencing and building a temporary house so that the piglets could come outside.
It's something that happens to all of us. The animals (or in some cases plants) don't stop growing, but we have not managed to get their new home ready in time.

The fencing was merely a matter of screwing planks into existing fence posts, just at ground level to prevent the pigs nuzzling the stock fence out of shape and escaping. I did manage to find a very good source of classy new planks

The house was to be made of straw, despite me reminding Mick about the famous story. He felt that the local wolves would not have enough huff and puff to blow this house down!

Mick's plan was very similar to something I had been planning, basically just walls made of straw bales and a corrugated roof laid onto a frame to cover the whole. I was keen to see how it would actually work in practice.



Two happy piglets, one happy Mick

Well, as you can see the house worked out well. With a race of hurdles to coax them in the right direction, moving the piglets from their indoor home to their new outdoor home was pretty easy. The piglets were very happy with the new set up and set about chasing each other around excitedly before they settled down and started digging around with their snouts.
We were home just in time to witness a stunning sunset. I went straight onto the internet as Mick had recommended an old book about smallholding and I was keen to find it. I was delighted to find a used copy on Amazon for 1p plus postage. Now that I've got mine ordered, I can tell you it is called Fieldcraft and Farmyard by Val Porter. I'll let you know what I think of it once it's arrived.


Saturday, 17 December 2016

Masked Wagtail - A Friendly Little Chap




Saturday 10th December 2016
A week and a half ago a Masked Wagtail turned up in South West Wales. This is a remarkable record of a subspecies of White Wagtail which is only found way over in Asia.
Normally I would be straight in the car when a first for Britain turns up, especially a showy good looker such as this. But from a pure listing point of view this bird counts as a zero! It is not judged by most listing authorities to be a species in its own right, just as our own Pied Wagtail is just another subspecies of White Wagtail.
Whilst a number on a list is not the be all and end all, it did mean that I assigned this bird a little less urgency. I even chose a Dusky Thrush (already on the list) over it last Monday. Another reason for my lackadaisical approach is that it would seem to be strongly holding a winter territory, giving grief to the local wagtail population and even doling it out to a robin, usually the toughest dude in the neighbourhood.

So it was that this bird had to wait till its second weekend to meet me. I left at midnight on Friday night, meeting up with Peter on the way. I hadn't met Peter before but he has a long and very distinguished career in birding. It was his birthday today, 81! I hope that at the age of 81 I am as mentally and physically agile as Peter. He stayed awake for much of the journey and kept me entertained and engrossed with stories of his life and of how the early birding scene developed in this country.
With a stop for a sleep an hour short of site, we still arrived an hour or so before first light and grabbed a bit more shut-eye.

At 8 o'clock it was light enough to get out of the car and start exploring the area. It quickly turned out that I had parked in exactly the right place, for after fifteen seconds of intense searching a wagtail flew over our heads calling strongly and landed in the middle of the road. A couple of minutes later it was performing right in front of us, feeding in the leaf litter by the side of the road. I won't bother to describe all its plumage. You can see from the photos which Peter has kindly sent me.


The bird often walked straight up to us and was totally unconcerned by our presence. Only passing cars caused it to fly off. It seemed to be following a routine, maybe a set feeding circuit, as it periodically disappeared for up to 20 minutes before returning.

One good thing about being so late to go and see this bird was that we had it pretty much to ourselves for much of the time. When we eventually left after a couple of hours the number of birders to visit that morning had only just reached double figures.
This was another twitch where the locals seemed very chatty and happy to see us. That's two in a row. If we're not careful, twitchers will be getting a good reputation!



Friday, 16 December 2016

Lock Up Your Chickens! (warning: contains a rant!)

Tuesday 6th - Thursday 8th December 2016
The day started off foggy, very foggy. I don't know why, but I decided to take a few photos of the birds. They seemed happy outside.



Early evening on Tuesday I became aware that DEFRA had at some point in the day declared a 30 day Prevention Zone. "Keepers of poultry and other captive birds are now required to keep their birds indoors, or take appropriate steps to keep them separate from wild birds."

The reason for this is a series of incidences of bird flu on the continent. It is spread by wild birds.

I have always known that at some point we may have to shut the poultry up inside, but it is still a complete pain in the butt. I had a basic plan in my head, but it still needed a lot of work to put in place.

I wasn't particularly pleased with the way DEFRA handled it, but then they are basically a government department set up to support industrial farming and this is often at the expense of the smallholder (as well as totally at the expense of nature, but that's a different battle). Just about every major disease outbreak has been caused by industrial scale farming cutting corners. They moan at rules and regulations, yet it is their own actions which have made all this necessary as they constantly push the limits to make more money. Yet still these rich landowners seem always to have the ear of government.

DEFRA must surely have known this decision was being considered. A little more warning would have been good, even if it had been in the form of 'get ready just in case'. As it was, small-scale poultry keepers across the country suddenly found themselves having to hastily clear sheds, stables, polytunnels in order to house their birds and not be in breach of the order.
Obviously we all want to be responsible livestock keepers and nobody wants either to be responsible for an outbreak or to lose their birds to disease. But at the same time it is not so easy for us to suddenly keep our livestock confined.
I had to take the next day off work just to create the space and physically catch and move all the birds.

There was a quote from a large-scale farmer saying: 1. that these measures should have been put in place several weeks ago and: 2. that this order a couple of weeks ago would have been disastrous for the industry with birds being prepared for Christmas.
So it sounds very much as if the timing of the decision was not based solely on the risk of an outbreak, but on the potential inconvenience to the industry too.
I don't see DEFRA giving the same thought to small-scale producers. No, for us there was a sudden immediate need to confine our birds. So sudden, in fact, that DEFRA were 'too busy' to notify registered keepers of livestock by any means other than a press release, despite insisting on having contact details for all of us.

It was left to Social media to be the purveyor of the news.

Anyway, rant over. Most of the birds are now confined in the stables. It is a complete pain and the birds are not overenthusiastic about it either.

Right now it is better to be a sheep than a bird!






I have the Ixworth hens ensconced in one stable, all the other hens in the other stable and the turkeys in the third, though they stay up in the rafters and move between stables as the whim takes them. The Muscovy ducks I eventually managed to catch and they are now in with the chickens.
The male was easy to herd up to the stable but the girls simply took flight. They are very strong fliers, often going right out into next door's field. They headed off over the trees, over the road and veered out of view to the left. I went to the front gate but couldn't see them anywhere. I just hoped they would come back later. After a little searching I gave up and returned to the chicken pen. And there they were! They must have done a huge loop.
I let them be for the rest of the day as it would be impossible to catch them now. Instead, I caught them more unawares out of their house in the morning and carried them down to the stables. You have to grip Muscovies really tightly as their flight muscles are so strong. You also have to keep their sharp claws away from you and make sure they don't squirt in your direction from the back end.

The other ducks, more docile and less flighty, are in the polytunnel. They are quacking a lot more than usual but they will be ok in there as long as the Prevention Order doesn't go on after 5th January.

I said that most of the birds are now confined. For the wording of the order is not totally clear. It includes phrases such as "where practicable" and "do your best to..."
In particular with respect to geese and to gamebirds, it acknowledges the cruelty of keeping them indoors and the order is very contradictory in this respect. It says to take all possible measures to make sure they do not come into contact with wild birds and to make sure that food and drink are not accessible to wild birds.
So I have decided that the geese can go out in the day but be locked up and fed inside at night. They are the lucky ones.

One of the measures which becomes even more important than usual with the birds inside is rodent control. Fortunately I was already on top of this, as shown by this rather macabre find when I was reorganising the whole stables. That's a broom head for size comparison! It's dead.


So it's been a difficult few days. I know it is probably a sensible precaution, but I just feel that it hasn't been handled very well at all. I know we smallholders don't pack much economic punch, but it's not all about that. We are a hard-working and well-meaning bunch of people who know our minds and are fiercely independent. We strive for self-sufficiency, a virtue which has at points in the not so distant past been what has kept this country going through hard times. We own a little bit of this earth and we care for it. We don't overconsume and we probably give more to The Earth than we take. It would be nice if the authorities showed us a little bit more respect sometimes. It would certainly make it easier to show respect back.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A Dusky Discovery

Sunday 4th December 2016



The day started with a long dog walk along the Main Drain and across the fields. As usual, Boris found a way of achieving maximum dirtiness while Arthur just mooched around finding interesting smells.
There are now 8 Whooper Swans by Coy Bridge and Mute Swan numbers are up to 63.
When we returned, I put in another shift digging the pond, beginning to work out where the banks will go and planning an overflow into a boggy area. The pond will be fed by rainwater diverted from the stable roof.
A late lunch found me trying one of Sue's new jams, Elderflower Champagne and Whitecurrant - very nice.

My plan for Monday was to finally drive over to South Wales to see the Masked Wagtail, but that all began to change early evening as details came through of a photo posted onto a Facebook group asking for an identification.


The first photo of the bird
to be posted on the internet
There were three photos, a blackbird, a couple of starlings and a dusky thrush.


WHOOOAAAAAA! A DUSKY THRUSH!!!!

Details of the site were not to be released until next morning but it didn't take a lot of detective work to figure out that the photo was quite probably taken in an orchard in Beeley on the edge of the Peak District.
Dusky Thrushes have been as rare as hen's teeth for many years, but I was lucky enough to catch up with one in Kent a few years back.

Chances of a Dusky Thrush sticking around are difficult to assess. Instinct told me it was unlikely to be seen the next morning. But Dusky Thrushes are almost mythical and I was keen to see it. I hatched a plan which would give me a good night's sleep and arrive me on site at about ten in the morning, the time that the precise location was likely to be released.
My insurance policy was to do a little Christmas shopping at Peak Shopping Village. That way it wouldn't be a completely wasted journey and if the bird was found I would be less than two miles away.

I set the alarm for half six and went to bed.

Monday 5th December 2016
I met up with Neil in Holbeach Tesco car park and from there we headed westwards. He was happy with the Christmas shopping plan.
But at 8.38am we received news that the bird was still there, though only seen briefly. We continued into a distinctly frosty and foggy landscape and at just past ten in the morning we were on a minor road traversing Beeley Moor. There wasn't much news on the bird. From what we could tell it had been seen briefly a couple of times.
Two minutes before our predicted arrival time we came across a Road Closed sign with absolutely no way through. We had to turn around and drive right back across the moor. Eventually we reached the small village of Beeley and found the first available parking place. It was a short walk to where the bird had been showing and as we climbed the hill there were people coming away from the bird telling us it was still on show.
We hadn't even realised it was showing, otherwise we would have tried to park closer. As it was, by the time we had walked up the hill to the church the bird had flown off. Thrushes have the annoying habit of picking up with other thrush species and disappearing off.
After another half an hour there had been no further sightings and I was starting to think about Christmas shopping at Peak Shopping Village. After all, we wouldn't be far away if the bird turned up again.
I'm not really being serious. I am much more determined than that. I headed off up a track to search for where the bird might be feeding, but it wasn't long before my phone started ringing. The bird was being watched in the orchard! (Access had by now been granted).


I ran back and it wasn't too long before I was enjoying good, if fairly brief views of the bird. There were maybe a hundred birders present at this point. The villagers of Beeley were slightly bemused by us, but we were among the first wave of birders and there had been no time for any bad feelings to set in yet.
The charity who owned the land from which the bird was viewable were fantastic. They laid on toilet facilities, parking and seemed genuinely happy to witness our eccentric passion. I hope that everybody contributed generously, though twitchers are astonishingly tight when it comes to putting their hands in their pockets. When approached with a collection bucket, somebody in front of us, despite the fact he was stood on somebody else's land by their kind permission, dared ask if it was compulsory to donate! We made sure he felt our eyes burning into the back of his head and hopefully heard our disapproving whispers.
Neil gripped me off with a bacon roll which they had laid on, but it wasn't long before chips appeared too and more bacon rolls. There was coffee and tea too.
This was quite some twitch.

The bird gave us the run around for the next couple of hours but we managed several sightings, though none longer than a minute. I recognised the lady who had originally posted the photo on the internet. She was finding it all rather surreal.

Neil and I gave it till one o'clock before heading back. We both had other halves to get back to and we didn't feel we would get much better views of the bird. Besides, more and more birders were starting to arrive and we quite wanted to get out of the place before it became too hectic.

And finally... that wonderful charity who have been so friendly and patient is dukesbarn. Their website is dukesbarn.org. Donations can be made via links on the website.

ed - the bird is still present well over a week later. It has now been seen by thousands of birders. The villagers even arranged an out-of-village car park over the weekend, with a free shuttle bus laid on. Amazing stuff!
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