(Click images to enlarge)
Sunday May 15th 2011: … find their food on the same pasture.
Poncey and the rabbit.
I heard Poncey’s call as I made my way through the North Pond wood. I eased myself onto the pasture and stood close to a bush, next to the electricity pylon. In the distance, Poncey was standing opposite a rabbit and it looked, for all the world, as if he was having a conversation with the rabbit, which couldn’t possibly be. I have noticed that sometimes he will chase every rabbit from the vicinity and at other times he is not bothered by them.
Poncey is a very alert pheasant and when he smells danger he lowers his head and body and, keeping himself as close as possible to the ground, he runs as fast as his little legs will carry him away from the threat. I watched him do exactly this earlier this evening; one minute he was there and then he had disappeared, only to reappear running like the clappers down to the river. As I watched this happening a fox ran past on my left, stopped 10 metres in front of me and began sniffing and pawing the ground. I don’t think the fox had seen Poncey, or the rabbit; in fact, the rabbit hadn’t moved an inch whilst all this was going on. After a while – yet again – the fox turned and began to run towards my boots, only to come to a dead stop – presumably it realised my boots were not rabbits after all – before doing a right wheel and running off towards the pasture fence. It looks like I will have to camouflage my boots.
Shoals of tadpoles were swimming around the pond, their back legs just beginning to form and I photographed a couple of tawny owls sleeping in a tree.
Oh! I nearly forgot to mention that I counted only two ducklings on the pond this evening, which, I think, confirms my theory that it is not a good thing for a mother and eight ducklings to set-up home on a small pond – the ducklings are easy pickings for the local predators. There was a drake swimming behind the mother; he obviously sensed the opportunity and fancied he was in with a chance.
Saturday May 14th 2011: … is a big old pheasant who patrols the pasture east of the North Pond and also a large part of the lagoon field; he is a fine specimen. I haven’t given any of the other marsh animals a name – it’s not what I do. I haven’t considered pheasants capable of exhibiting any form of interesting character trait. Pheasants are severely lacking in the brain department – apparently, not all of them can be painted with such a broad brush.
To my mind this pheasant is such a character that he deserves a name. I didn’t think too hard about it: one evening he was ‘that darn pheasant over there,’ and the next he was ‘that poncey pheasant over there.’ What captured my interest was his ostentatious behaviour, his brashness and his refusal to be startled into rashness. Most pheasants would be up in the air and squawking nineteen to the dozen as soon as they hear an unfamiliar sound. Poncey, on the other hand, just quietly disappears and reappears in a different location.
Poncey struts about with a slow deliberate gait and his head held high. He walks with a swagger and his feet move in slow motion; in fact, he moves just like the animated pheasant in the Famous Grouse whiskey advertisement. I even saw him do a little foot shuffle, once – can you believe it? He has a very short, strident, and confident call. I hear him from all over the north marsh, and when I am in Hoo Wood. I can see him when I’m in Hoo Wood. I imagine him shouting: ‘Here I am girls!’ ‘C’mon, where are the girls?’ ‘Bring on the girls!’ ‘I’m the daddy!’ There isn’t another pheasant on the marsh that can top this old boy.
I think Poncey is definitely top of the tree in the marsh pheasant hierarchy. I might be making him sound like a slow old bird, but he is anything but slow. If another cock pheasant strays into his territory, he goes berserk and ousts the intruder in double-quick time. This pheasant doesn’t take any messing. Foxes don’t worry him, either; he shouts at them, shows them his backside and runs – probably whilst shouting, ‘C’mon, catch me if you can!’ I have tried many times to get close enough to steal his full frame image, but he is far too smart and too quick. The photograph at the top of this blog doesn’t do him justice, but I will get a proper close-up image of him – if only for the challenge.
Thursday May 12th 2011: ... and only four little ducks came back. I have watched this family of ducks for more than a week now, and I am not sure that ducklings living on such a small pond is a good idea. The foxes and airborne predators might find the little ducklings easy prey. There were eight ducklings and now only are four are left. Will any of the ducklings survive?
Most nights I have watched the ducks swimming on the pond, and then cuddling up to mum on the fallen tree branch for a nap. There are three ducklings that quickly follow mum onto the branch. The other ducklings take their time, swimming away in all directions to play for a few minutes. One by one, though, they climb up the branch to their mother. Three of the ducklings have always kept close to mum, and three of the four wayward ducklings have not survived – there is a lesson here, surely. I wonder if the last wayward ducking be swimming on the pond tomorrow?
Mother’s favourites have ganged-up on the last wayward duckling. When the little fella tries to take its place under its mother’s downy feathers with its siblings, they push it off the tree branch and into the water. This happens again, and again, and again, until mum gets fed-up with all the commotion and slides off the branch and into the pond. I don’t hold out much hope for this little fella.
The tadpoles are still swimming in the pond – can’t see any legs yet, though.
The stinging nettles, giant hog weed and cow parsley are now five feet high in places.
Wednesday May 11th 2011: … over North Pond and far away. Mother duck said, “Quack, quack, quack, quack,” but only 5 little ducks came back. …
Tuesday May 10th 2011: The weather on the marsh over the last few days has been erratic, dramatic and colourful to say the least. Last evening the sky was blue and the sun warm; half an hour later the sky was full of black, menacing, tumbling clouds. Pink lightning flashed through the trees, thunder rumbled overhead and rain fell, well I say rain: I think the rain god placed a huge water filled balloon above the clouds, right over my head, and then burst it. The amount of water that fell from the sky yesterday evening is not what I would call rain; there should be another word for the wet deluge that occurred: there you go…’wet deluge’, that will do for me! I suppose I should be grateful that I didn’t get zapped by the lightning. However, on the plus side, the pond level has risen by at least four inches, probably by more today. The vegetation has certainly benefited and it is now four-foot high in places. On Sunday the Stour and Hoo Brook water levels had increased by two foot, or more, but these levels had dropped a little yesterday.
The mallard with her eight ducklings might now be the mallard with her five ducklings; I’m not absolutely sure, but that’s the number of ducklings I counted yesterday.
The yellow flag irises are now really beginning to show.
The marsh cattle were very interested in what I was up to, in the pasture, and they kept tabs on me for as long as they could see me.