Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Insatiable Alsatian!

On our walk last time we lost the chicken farmer’s sociable dog to a high-energy chase of a poor little wild boar. Evidently our furry friend could not get enough of us, because when we next tried to sneak past the corner to the farm, he spotted us yet again, and this time from about one hundred metres.

He did not jump at all or push his nose into your side, but he just gently brushed against my leg as he caught up with us. Then we were stuck with him, for over an hour. He simply trotted along as if he was our dog.

Alsatian paw prints

He got his paws wet in the ditches along the narrow country lanes, and he crossed the road to explore everything he could smell, hear or see.

Alsatian 1

He was often behind us, but liked to be in the lead, in front of us, as if he had taken us for a walk.

Alsatian 2

We felt like his flock, especially when he turned round to check that we were keeping up with him. Cars passed, slowing down for the three of us looking like a couple taking the dog for a walk after lunch. After a while I started to feel quite comfortable with the dog quietly moving around us. It almost started to feel normal, a quiet country feel.

When we reached our turning point he just looked at us …

Alsatian 3

… and followed us all the way back again. Just as we got to “his” corner, I thought for a second his thirst might lure him home, but no.

Luckily for us, our neighbours were out cutting some hedge, so we managed to sneak in while he was distracted by their activity. Then he quite simply adopted them instead and laid down next to them with his head between his paws in, what looked like, a very comfortable position. And there he stayed for quite some time.

It was not the first time the chicken farmer got a phone call to come and collect his dog, who really likes company. Not much of a farm guard dog, is he?


Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Alsatian Chasing Baby Boar

Bracken  Road

Autumn apple  Field

On our first full day in France we thought we would go for a normal, quiet country lane autumn walk. It was very windy, but the sun was quite strong, so the top layer of clothing came off pretty quickly. As we were coming towards the end of our hour-long walk, we passed the chicken farm wondering if the guard dog, who patrols the grounds, would come pestering us like he has done in the past, following us all the way home.

I thought we had made it without him spotting us, but no. All of a sudden you could hear him breathing next to you. (This is not the time to be afraid of dogs for sure.) As he came up to me from behind, I tried to ignore him, but he said hello, I suppose, by nudging my elbow with his nose. Then he just followed us as usual, sniffing around like dogs do.

All of a sudden he went into the ditch sniffing particularly intensively, and quickly moved into the field where maize had stood before. There he stopped and “froze”, staring into the high grass between the fields. He had spotted something.

Then started a playful chase, if you are the dog, and a scary “run-for-your-life” chase if you are the baby boar! They ran this way, that way and back again, across the road and back yet again. At one time the playful dog grabbed the little boar by the neck and then let him go again. The little wild boar had probably been “separated” from his parents because of the farmers’ Sunday hunt in the area. Gun fire and hunting horns had been heard all through the day. So being picked up and tossed around a little by a friendly playmate was not such a bad alternative!

Boar Chase

(Boar trying to escape on the right. Apologies for image quality, but I was 150 metres away by this time!)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Killer Instinct!

Killer instinct, but no hunger! Why is it that cats chase birds only to catch and kill, but not eat? I know it is an instinct, they are programmed to do it, but why is the instinct still there when they have no other natural reason to kill? Why kill and not eat? You would have thought that evolution (or is that devolution?) would link those two urges, to eat and kill. Both or none, but that seems not to be the case.

My regular readers know that I feed birds in our garden and have had problems before with killer cats. These days I keep the shrub next to the feeders clear nearest the ground not to give any predators anywhere to hide. But cats are lightning quick when it comes to killing. Birds feeding off the ground are easy prey.

An incident the other week made me take another security step. I was upstairs when I heard a terrifying scream from the garden; I rushed to a window only to see the one we call “Socks”, because of its white paws, carry away a Great Spotted Woodpecker!

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I was down in the garden in a flash, ran after the cat, with the poor bird in its jaws, into the copse behind the garden, only to hear the heart-breaking screaming continue for what seemed an eternity, until it suddenly stopped.

The following day I went to a garden centre and bought some of those green-plastic-coated metal sticks and some wire. I made my own cat (de)fence, with the intention of at least slowing down the furry felines enough for the innocent little birdies to take off and save their lives.

Cat (de)fence

It seems to be working, and the wonderful twist on the story is that the birds now have even more places to sit while they are waiting for a chance to have a nourishing meal.

I feel much better about myself now that I have turned a death trap into a bird sanctuary.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chicks Rock ‘n Rule? or That Damn Chicken Farmer!

One of the many great features of our holiday place in Normandy is the beautiful landscape surrounding us. It is a varied and undulating scenery; crop fields and large grazing fields for the dairy herds broken up by small woods, copses and hedgerows. The local farmers manage their land very well; they cut the grass along the roads and they chop down trees on a regular basis, letting nothing go to waste. All the wood is used either for fences and similar, or for stoves like ours, at a cost of €50 per cubic metre. If you buy larger quantities you get a better price.

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We like to think that our farmer friends look after the environment in an excellent way, although they sometimes dump all sorts of rubbish in funny places. There is a natural rhythm to the agricultural year with sound old farming practices. This time of year is particularly suited to maintenance, repairing and forestry, apart from the milking every morning at seven and every evening at six.

Then there is the EU, the European Union, and the co-ordination of, in particular, agriculture; what to grow, how much to grow, subsidies for certain crops, subsidies for NOT growing certain crops, rules about raising animals, large and small, and the space they need, i.e. their own creature comfort zone. And this is where I have an issue with the chicken farmer over the hill.


Like so many farmers he has branched out, but his main business is still fowl. He now seems to be expanding his chicken division. Not only will he be feeding up more chickens, but he needs to stick to, possibly new, EU rulings regarding the personal space each individual chick is entitled to. So his two big chicken barns with their characteristic feeding towers close to the family home will now be joined by three new barns on the other side of the road. Tons and tons of earth have been shifted in the last few months, the ground has been levelled and the foundations now bear witness to what we can expect in the future. I am not concerned with the smell or the sound because these buildings will be situated several hundred metres away from any public road.

As my regular readers know, we like to go for walks all around our little hamlet. Just up the hill from us we often stop to take in the views, just a little short of the said chicken farm. If we look over the farm we can see “for miles and miles”. If we look down to the left we have one of our absolute favourite views, that is, until now.


Even approaching this beautiful hill from the other side, like we do when we arrive on holiday, fills us with joy and anticipation. But now, he has ruined our view. Just look at it!


On the other hand, in his defence, I have to admit he should get some credit for creating this bird and fish pond by the road some years ago.


But he is ruining OUR VIEW, buuuhuuuh!


Friday, June 18, 2010

Spring/Summer Animal Watch

Not only do I keep pen and paper near me or on me for when some writing ideas come up, but this time of year there is a lot going on in the garden, so my camera is never far away either.

When I wake up in the morning I often hear how young birds are calling for more food, now! They congregate by the feeders under our bedroom window. Since we are in mid June now, all fledglings have left their nests and ventured out into the big unknown, and it is fascinating and rather sweet to see how some of them are still trying to understand how to get to the food. They can see others eating from the feeders and those fatty balls full of yummy seeds.

This young greenfinch could not figure out how to approach and land safely to get some food, but ended up on the ground looking slightly bewildered.

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This juvenile great tit is getting some help though.

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Not only birds are hungry but also this female squirrel is in need of replenishing her energy levels. She is pretty agile and acrobatic!

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When the great spotted woodpeckers fly in, the crowd of smaller birds disperse in a flash, and you cannot avoid hearing the young ones calling for food. In these pictures a male adult is feeding a young one.

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Since I started supplying water I have also realised that birds do not only have a bath every now and then, but most of all how often they need to drink, and it is not only birds who come to drink. I have many times seen birds repeatedly visiting the water bowls between sessions on the feeder perch. When everyone else has gone to bed the hedgehogs appear.

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No wonder I always keep both camera and tripod close at hand. Like yesterday when a jay turned up all of a sudden. I have never before seen one in the garden, only in the woods.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

My Garden

I will try, despite my previous post, to write about animal life in the garden. Thanks to some encouraging comments I have decided to blog about all the topics I mentioned, and I take the easiest option to begin with.

I never thought that I would turn into somebody being teased by his wife for observing and learning about the birds and other animals who visit our garden. Since we moved here over six years ago and I started feeding the birds, I have spotted approximately 30 different species. There have been everything from one-offs like a sparrow hawk to the ever-present greenfinches. Since our garden backs onto a copse, once part of a large mixed forest, we get a great variety of birds.

Before we moved here I had never knowingly seen a greenfinch, but I know them very well by now. One immediately noticeable characteristic is the aggression they show, in particular towards each other. I have blogged about this before, but they never cease to fascinate me.

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They are also the only species who stay on the feeder peg and keep munching away at the seeds. Others, like the great tits, long-tailed tits, blue tits, crested tits, black caps, nuthatches and even robins, pick their seed and fly off to a nearby branch and start trying to crack the seed open.

Some other birds are happy to patrol the ground under the feeders to look for seeds discarded by other birds with a much more acquired taste. So there is room for everyone.

As soon as I see a new bird I try to photograph it and identify it using my European bird book. In doing so I have learnt a lot over the years, their names in both English and Swedish and also something about their habits.

I have in the past blogged about sunbathing birds (getting quite a few search hits), but since I have introduced water I have seen many birds both drinking and taking a refreshing bath.


I even saw a jackdaw clumsily landing to get a drink.


Then of course there are the red squirrels, very agile, quick like lightning and rather unafraid. I have posted many times before with squirrels in the leading parts. Sometimes you see them at their playful best, chasing each other up an down and round our big conifer trunk trying to outwit each other. The other week I managed to catch some of them in full flight across the lawn. Rather special don't you think?

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

This One Is Not about Birds - Promise!

But when you look at the picture you might be forgiven for thinking the opposite.

Out on a photo walk not long ago I spotted a few of these mysterious, wooden objects on tree trunks. A piece of cheese under a right-angle roof? A nesting box for some hitherto unknown extremely small bird? Has somebody just tried out a new drill and different-size drill bits and proudly put it up in the forest? Is it a practice-piece of wood for young woodpeckers? Is it a post box for holding military covert carrier pigeons' little scrolls? Nursery chambers for some insect?

Can somebody please help me? What on earth is this?


Friday, January 08, 2010

On A Winter's Morning

Most of northern Europe is in the firm grip of bitterly cold wintry conditions. The weather is causing all sorts of problems. People can't get to work, schools are closed, exams have to be postponed, sports events are affected, people are being isolated in remote villages, old people and disabled people don't get their much-needed visits from care workers, and businesses are badly affected. The list seems to be endless.

But the situation also brings out the very best in some people who go to great lengths to help others in distress, many children have a great time in the snow for the very first time and I get to take some lovely winter pictures of guests in my garden, among them robins, bullfinches and squirrels.

Have a good weekend!

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Getting Back Home from the Garage

When we lived in west London my Vauxhall garage was quite a long way away. Getting there to hand in the car for service or repairs took about fifteen minutes, but getting back home by bus was a totally different kettle of fish!

First I had to walk to Richmond station (10-15 min), then wait for the bus. Well, you know about buses, how they seem to hunt in packs like wolves. It could take anything between a few minutes and, let's say, twenty minutes. If traffic was not too bad, what with negotiating through the very crowded centre of Richmond, the bus ride took roughly another twenty minutes. Add to that nearly ten minutes to walk to our flat. I make that approximately an hour.

Now take a look at these pictures to see what the corresponding walk back (35 min) from the garage through the German countryside offers. Which would you prefer?

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DSC_0765_20090507_1282    Not the most difficult decision to make, was it?