Thursday, 16 February 2017

Valentine's Day Bloodbath

14th February 2017

The turkeys and the geese are getting fed up with each other and a fair few squabbles are breaking out. But nothing had prepared me for what I found on Tuesday morning, for the water in their drinks buckets was stained deep red/purple.
I quickly inspected all the birds, expecting to see at the very least a few bloody feathers, but I couldn't see anything untoward. I even counted the ducks, in case one of them had incurred the wrath of the turkeys or the geese.

It was then that I remembered. Yesterday I had thrown in a few old beetroots for the geese to eat!

Later on in the day Sue confessed that she had found a dead duck in the stable the day before... which had turned out to be a beetroot.

With the car still being repaired, Sue kindly took me out to see some local birds today. Firstly it was back to the Great Grey Shrike at Deeping High Bank, just a short hop across the fens for us. Unfortunately it wasn't playing ball this frosty morning, but we did discover a nice circular walk we could do with the dogs which takes in a long stretch along the river. Today it held flocks of tufted ducks, wigeon, teal and a few cormorants and goosanders too.

So it was another short drive across the fens to Willow Tree Fen, an excellent newly created reserve which Boris has already visited once to see a Red-footed Falcon.

Today's bird was a bluethroat which had been showing incredibly well along the main path. Bluethroats are typically a coastal migrant in Spring and Autumn, so quite what this bird is doing here at the back end of winter is anybody's guess.

The car park at Willow Tree Fen would typically be lucky to hold more than a couple of cars, but today was a quite different story. It seems there are more retired birdwatchers in the area than I had realised.

Boris and Arthur were very well behaved. In fact they were considerably quieter than some of the photographers who were hogging the front row and who had scattered the path with mealworms to attract the bird closer to their cameras. Their fieldcraft is sadly lacking.

I just enjoyed the bird. It showed so well that Sue was able to watch it through the telescope too, though disappointingly Arthur is showing very little interest in birdwatching whatsoever. After a while I remembered that I should be able to hold the phone up to the telescope and manage some sort of picture. I didn't try too hard, but managed a few record shots. All the sharp ones were when the bird was facing away, but I'm sure you'd rather see why it is called a Bluethroat.

It was good to meet a couple of my more eccentric friends there too.

When we got home I spent the rest of the day in the kitchen. I am still determined to spend more time turning the food I grow into tasty meals. Today's was to be a marathon cooking session to culminate with a lovely Valentine's meal with my wife. Just perfect.

The main course was to be slow-roast shoulder of hogget in merguez spices and with almost 7 hours cooking time I needed to get it started.
Then it was on to mixing and kneading one of my favourite loaves, a Pan Gallego full of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and millet. A totally different sort of bread was a Sage Soda Bread, made without yeast.
To go with the bread I knocked up one of my favourite soups, Butternut and Peanut Butter (courtesy of Hugh F-W) as well as a Cream of Artichoke Soup. I am not sure I will like the latter, but it would be a good way of using up some of the Jerusalem Artichokes which grow so easily in the garden.

Finally, one of the treats of being grown up and cooking for yourself is that you can pick your favourite childhood recipes and improve them. A bread and butter pudding had every conceivable luxurious ingredient added. It turned out absolutely delicious.

And that was that. A very enjoyable Valentine's Day with a bit of everything I love.

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