Friday, 2 December 2016

One Down

Chivers admiring her spay scar which came back from the vet
painted a pretty silver (zinc?) colour and with very fetching,
dissolvable purple stitches. 
Enough of this foxy frivolity now, twirling the things round our heads by their tails. It all got much more serious last night and it's not anything you can tell funny stories about. We don't like doing it and we wish we did not need to. Some of our friends have objected in firm tones but, so far, they have accepted that we are all entitled to our own opinions. Foxes are definitely a controversial area which result in some heated discussions and forcefully put views. This post contains some text and pictures you might like to avoid, so I have deliberately included the material down-screen. It will not hit you when you first open the post, and if you want or need to avoid it then be warned. Do not scroll down this story.

We have had some very foggy mornings
It has been a painful time in which we have felt a bit 'pinned down', unable to leave the poultry out and un-attended because the two foxes we know about seem to work both night and day. Liz had her 'fox-flinging' event on Monday during the morning, and I saw foxes both Tuesday and Wednesday night. On Thursday morning Liz was given time off work because they had the auditors in, so I went shopping and Liz had another encounter, this time with no physical contact.

A lovely gift of eggs from Sue and |Rob.
Patrolling round the house, she stuck her head into the "empty" turkey house and looked along the building towards a low wall that divides it in two. Peeking at her over the wall was Mr Fox, who must have climbed half way up the chickens' perching ladder to look back at her. He scarpered before Liz could sneak the doors closed.

Copper Marans hen. One of 3 Marans hens who survived
Wednesday's attack (along with 2 roosters)
The foxes, though, were not going to be allowed it all their own way and on Thursday we upped the ante. We have borrowed a big cage-trap of proven ability and also welcomed a friend who lives nearby and who we know through Facebook, who came armed with a .22 rifle. I knew nothing of guns and had never even been close to a "Two two" so I was looking forward to seeing it in action. It is extremely accurate to 200 metres which easily met our needs. My job was going to be to hold the torch.

Fox cage-trap. The pale grey plate is the
pressure pad. The bait goes behind it.
Mr Fox stepping on the plate drops the
gate at this end of the trap.
In the event went very differently to the plans. Our first young fox got himself caught almost at the same time as my rifle-man was arriving, so was under arrest for barely 10 minutes and shot within the first 15 minutes of the visit. After that we never saw another fox despite walking all around the patch for almost 3 hours more.

A .22 Rifle and the result. The rifle was not really needed
in the event, a range of less than ten feet!
We think we heard the old vixen shouting from way away to the SW, possibly calling her now-dead child, but for us there were no eyes reflecting in our lights. It was very parky and we had dressed up warm for all the motionless, silent waiting. It was good every now and then to retreat back indoors for a hot drink and slice of cake. I had offered my man a share of our lamb ragu supper, but he'd eaten so much cake he was full up! We called it a day at around 7:30 pm, leaving the trap set in case our girl showed up on hearing the shooter drive away. She is no fool.

I woke up today, then, expecting a full trap but was disappointed; still set, open and empty. I was faced with another day of vigilance but wondered whether the big, dark vixen might keep to her 'Lizzie' schedule of mid-morning after the car had been driven away. I decided to keep all the birds shut in their bedrooms so that the only prey a sneaking fox would make contact with was the dead hen in the trap, bait. Again, no luck. Not a sign of her.

Sheep go from frosty to dry via steaming in the morning sun.
At 11:30 I let all the birds out and started my 'pinned down' anxious wait going about my chores but with my ears pinned back for the slightest squawk, honk or Guinea-cackle outside All I got were false alarms including one where the Guineas, flying up to a fence could suddenly see, from their higher viewpoint, where I had dropped my shot fox into long grass.

Christmas-Card morning where the
freezing fog last night had built long
fronds of needle crystal on plants
They could see enough red fur to trigger a positive fusillade of screams, cackles and raucous swearing which took me a few minutes to interpret - I'd raced round everywhere and knew there was no actual live fox about. I was trying to calm them and they were obviously yelling at my stupid, idiotic face "It's a fox! It's a fox! Look! Hiding in the grass!". If only I spoke Guinea Fowl.

Our lane this morning. 
We made it through to 4 pm, then, with no misadventures and it is now a huge relief to be able to shut away the birds and turn off the high-alert vigilance. It is no way to relax, let me tell you. Then, wouldn't you know it, I was through supper and had delivered Liz to the train station when the vixen showed up? I swear that lady knows that I have no gun and, unless she goes into my trap, no way of doing her any damage. My rifleman was only available that one night this week.

Just to add to the worries Liz has now hefted the little dead one by the tail and thinks that it is not, in fact, 'hers'. It is obviously a boy and she is sure that the one she was waving around did not have "that equipment". The angle she was looking at the animal from, she says, she would have noticed! This might mean that we actually have 3 foxes in this adventure, the vixen and 2 youngsters, a dog and a vixen.

More on all this as it progresses.


Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Fox News 2. Lizzie Strikes Back!

On Monday (28th) morning we posted the following 2 passages on Facebook. I think, as a story, it speaks for itself. There are no pics for obvious reasons (if we'd have had time to take pics.....) so I have slotted in a few recent. random shots. Have fun. (Apologies for the fruity language - we were a bit 'wired')

Danielle's lovely "grave stone" for our fallen
rooster. 
Liz: Bastard fox came back for seconds. Luckily I was here to frustrate his knavery.

Brekker!
Matt: So proud of my wife just now! She is being very modest here. She had the bastard BY THE TAIL for a few minutes and also got a good solid kick into his ribs. She'd heard the commotion in the yard and raced out to see him trying to grab a Buff. That was the chase and the kick. He ran into a shed and tried to lose himself into a dark corner but Liz knew that her favourite chook was hiding in that same corner. RaAAAARRRRRR!


We look after our guests!
She lunges in and grabs a hand full of tail, hauls him up at arms length and then starts looking for water to drown him in or some other method of despatch. Runs round the front, still holding fox and releases dogs who all clamour round but not too sure what is needed. She runs down the drive to the road and starts swinging fox round like a hammer-thrower and then fecked him at the hedge. A bit disorientated. he staggers to his feet and runs off with all three dogs snapping at his heels for 3 fields.


Chicken Tagine
Meanwhile Liz texts me, so I race home. She goes back round to check birds (all OK) while I hike across fields, attracted by distant barking of 3 westies. Unfortunately they all milling round a field-corner and have unfortunately lost the fox. All very happy and excited though, so lots of praise and treats and 'Good dogs!'


Teaching Danielle foot trimming. Snick snack.
Of course with hindsight we both have a million other things we should have done (slammed fox against wall, dropped him in crate, decapitated him with axe etc) but fair play. He is undoubtedly a bit hurt and scared and may think twice about coming back.

I may have the only 'farmer's wife' in the county who has swung a fox round by the tail. Beaming with pride. Go Elizabeth! Bet Danielle wishes she was still here!


Danielle has fallen in love with Towser, one
our "fox hounds". 
You may have to read the preceding post to know the full story but suffice to say we are under attack and still recovering from Wednesday's raid. We were hoping that the fox(es) had taken so many birds that they had a full 'larder' and would not need to return for a while but we are trying to arrange that one of us is always here in case. On Monday it was Liz in the driving seat. I'd gone down to a neighbour's place to muck out a bullock-barn and was just back indoors drinking his tea when the text went off. Naturally I was off back up the lane like hot snot, but it was all over bar rounding up the dogs.

Liz knitted this 'archery target' hat for the
club's baby, Feliz. 
Naturally we are all a bit 'wired' at this stage, jumping at the slightest chicken-noise and racing round to check. The dogs are so excited that they set off barking at the smallest excuse and the Guinea Fowl are worse - firing off their cacophony of clatter at the least offensive of changes or of 'new things'. The poor chickens are mostly recovered by now but both the injured roosters died a few days after the attack, from their wounds or just shock. There are a couple more still sulking in the Tígín (sadly that includes our old favourite Cuckoo Marans, the elderly 'Squawk' (9)) unwilling to walk about. Some hobble as if they may have received leg-injuries which are invisible under the feathers. Liz has been taking food treats in to these 'hospitalised' wounded.

Billie-No-Mates. We inherit this (originally Suzy's) bird from
a friend down the road who has also suffered 2 fox strikes and
was left with this lonely youngster. They decided to bring her
here for company while they decide whether to re-stock.
The story of Liz's heroics is, of course, doing the rounds. I enjoyed telling it in the local Post Office and I can imagine it will be passed on from there. All our Facebook friends are delighted and have come back with comments like "Don't mess with our Elizabeth... She is NAILS!" and even an ode. BUT, we are not all about foxes here. Between the two fox-events we found time to entertain our very good friends Dan and Dan(ielle). This couple have been before and we sometimes refer to them as the 'Children' because Danielle is daughter to Liz's closest cousin from her childhood, Cathy. Dan and Dan love to come here and relax, get very well fed and, in Danielle's case, get involved in the livestock. Dan is on hand to take a gazillion pics for FB.

View from new kitchen roof.
Regular readers may know that we have channelled Dan(ielle)'s hunger for knowledge into a jokey training course in which she has to complete tasks to move on to the next level of skill. This weekend, this was to be Level 6 and the task was to gather and pen the sheep, inject 2 for clostridium (Rosie and Silas), foot-trim anyone who needed it and dag any ewes whose 'lady-gardens' might be blocked enough with poo-ey wool 'klingons' to deter Silas (the ram) from doing his thing. I trust you to need no more explanation of that last bit. As ever, Dan was a star. She happily got into the overalls and wellies and got stuck in oblivious of the rain-wet and lanolin-soaked wool and the shitty 'dags' and rather muddy feet. She was man-handing the ram and ewes about so that we could get to the work-areas on each one, watching carefully as I showed her the foot trimming and then doing some feet solo despite her anxiety that she might cut too deep, nick the 'quick' and draw blood. After than, she found the dagging a breeze. Go Danielle. Level 6 (with Distinction) well earned.

Jet washing the now exposed and pointed
wall.
Amusingly, Dan and Dan were so keen on our stock that they were as horrified as us at the scene of carnage and strewn feathers which were still all over the frosty ground when they arrived Friday, 2 days after the Wednesday strike. Danielle was feeling very murderous  and hoping the fox might come back while they were here, so was desperate when he came back the day after they had flown home and she missed all the 'fun'.

Looking down on K-Dub's van
Meanwhile we have progressed on the kitchen extension work. Today we needed to be less vigilant re our foxy chum - with K-Dub and I clomping about over the roof, bantering with each other, commenting on the antics of the poultry below and making all manner of 'odd' noises (pressure washer, cement stirring paddle, hammering, clambering up and down ladders), we were sure the lad would know we were about. Even so I came flying down for a check at one stage when the Guineas kicked off, but they just seemed to have suddenly noticed there were MEN ON THE ROOF! (Shock! Drama!). False alarm. Ah well. That's enough for this post. More on Mr Fox when/if we put an end to his "knavery".

Newest neighbour. This baby is only days
 old born to next door's suckler herd.
I need this game to end soon. It is ruining my life.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Unlucky 13

Wednesday saw me driving down to Silverwood-land to collect Liz, have a bite of lunch with Steak Lady and get a first look at the new grave stone on Mr SL's grave. That would have been a perfectly good story for a blog post. I didn't need all the death, destruction and drama shoulder-barging it off the front pages. It would have been fine. A nice peaceful happy post. That would have done. Come home, few days to recover and prep the house for our weekend visitors. Everyone's a winner. However, the best laid plans (as they might have said) of mice and men shall come to naught when Brer Fox intervenes. Let me explain.

Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest
Wednesday, as I said, I was off down to Silverwood-land for the 2 hour drive to meet Liz, see this grave, spend a bit of time with the Silverwood gang and a bite of lunch. It was not the best drive ever - I was driving straight at the bright, low sun, on a very frosty morning and the windscreen washers had frozen up, so I had that fine, salty spray off the vehicles in front and was playing that silly game of trying to wipe the windows whenever that car or lorry went through a puddle and gave you a good wet dose of spray. At some points I even had to stop, pull over and get out and wipe it with a rag.

So, I arrived and we drove round to admire the very fine and tasteful head stone (Rest in Peace Theo) and adjourned to a local café for a bite of breakfast. From there round to Silverwoods for a chat with Mr and Mrs S. It was a lovely relaxing day and we headed home in good time to be there for poultry lock-up and to let the dogs out for a 'comfort stop'. So far so good. As we drove up our lane towards our gate, we could see "white stuff" in the verge of our splay and quickly worked out that this 'stuff' was Buff Orpington feathers. Maybe one had got out and been hit by a car?

First inkling of the problem. Feathers in the verge of our splay
No such luck - as we opened the gate and drove up the drive, those feathers were quickly 'joined' by larger puffs  in the drive, on the front lawn, in the 'woods' to the left and then, with increasing horror, the grass around the pond and even strewn across the frozen ice of the pond. We had obviously had a disaster and immediately suspected a major fox strike. In the gathering gloom we could also not see any chickens so our hearts sank; we thought we'd been wiped out, all the birds killed and taken. The sort of thing you read about but you hope never happens to you. The absolute lowest down side of having your poultry free-range.

Feathers on the frozen pond
From that low point it did start to improve. We spotted the geese all intact and could see 2 ducks with them. We started to spot chickens cowering in corners, scattered into surrounding fields, perching high in hedges. Two sad, still lumps of feather proved to be injured roosters who allowed us to pick them up and carry them to safety indoors. Other chickens hearing our voices and us whistling them up decided it was safe to start clucking and to come out of hiding. We shepherded these home more or less willingly. We spotted the old Sussex (Enda) the wrong side of a sheep-fence and helped her over in near darkness. One Guinea fowl started shouting from 30' up a spruce tree in the pig-run and we found his 'wife' (Min) in the rafters.

Brer Fox went this-away? The field
opposite.
As the darkness closed in we had everybody we could safely locked away but could see no sign of the three turkeys, 4 of the ducks, various chickens, one of the Guineas. It was all a bit confusing (as well as upsetting) but we could do no more. We had to leave them be and hope that more birds might be roosting out and might join us in the morning. We also now had a day-time fox who might easily come back for more and who I needed to either have words with or at least show him/her/them that we are now home, alert and ready.

Safe in the Tígín?
By the next day, it was all a bit clearer. Only one Guinea fowl came home - he'd roosted in a tall ash half a field away and quickly replied with his alarm calls when his buddy woke up in the spruce and started calling. Nobody else came home. In our searches in the evening we had found 2 unclaimed corpses, a duck and the old white Hubbard (Miss White). The fox(es) had managed to kill 13 birds and taken 11 of them away including all 3 turkeys, 3 of the Buff Orp poults (the chicks from Dustbin Lady and Crate Lady), 4 ducks, one young Marans cockerel and both the old Hubbards (Miss White and Miss Red). We assume that, though it is possible that the ducks flew away and the turkeys are scattered across the landscape.

Sunrise over the village crossroads
We have also since found the path used by the foxes carrying off the dead ones - they went off across the lane and through that field opposite which we tried to buy and on then through a hedge and diagonally across the 2nd field. After that we lost the scent and could find no more feathers. We are being fairly philosophical about all this and because the fox has not returned (except possibly to collect the last 2 corpses which we threw into a bramble patch) we are not sure what we can do about him/her/them.

Frosty grass is almost Christmas Card-ish.
We are relieved and delighted that we did not lose more birds. We lost no adult Buff Orps and we kept our two old favourite survivors, the old Sussex (Enda) and the even older Cuckoo Marans (Squawk). Our #2 Buff rooster (The Corporal)  is badly injured but is hanging in there and our #1 (Lt. Colonel Sir Bufton Tufton) is so unfazed and immaculate we suspect that he was either in the beer tent when it all kicked off or, possibly, at his London Club. They do say that it is always the roosters that "get it" because they leap to the defence of their women. Buffers does not seem to have read that bit of the rules of engagement.

The kattens are off for their ops.
More on all this fun and games in a future post.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

On a Chicken Mission

Liz plucks the final bird. 3 finished birds
are in the background.
This post sees us finally through the harvest of the Hubbard variety chickens. Regular readers will know that the Hubbard is a commercial breed used widely in Ireland by farmers supplying the supermarkets with, specifically, Free Range and Organic chickens. We get them as day-olds and grow them through to around day 90 by which time they have reached 2-4 kg oven-ready weights and are just the most succulent, tender, meaty and flavoursome chicken you will ever put on the table.

The final 3 hens and a cock await jointing and/or vac-packing
These are normally only available in industrial scale batches (10,000 for example) but our friends Mentor Anne and Simon who were once in that business, are still 'in' with a guy who manages one of the big hatcheries and is happy to make up mini-orders to suit we few smallholders. We get a dozen and A+S add those to their own 'few dozen' order. If you like, go back a few months on this blog for some pics of a previous lot newly arrived  (http://deefer-dawg.blogspot.ie/2016/05/hubbard-chick-at-2-days-little-list-of.html ).

Vac packed and ready for the freezer
Those regular readers will also know that the latest batch have now 'cooked' and we have been processing them at a two a day for the last week. That brought us to Saturday with 4 birds remaining. Normally we'd share the load but that day Liz decided she was "in the Zen" for a solid 2-3 hours of plucking and gutting.

Fringe benefit of a Hubbard kill. Lovely fresh paté
She took the laptop into the kitchen, put on an Oz murder-mystery series on download which she is currently "binge-watching", shut the door to keep out the kittens (they are devils for climbing up your back without warning, leaping from the floor to about waist height, then digging their claws in for a scrabble to shoulder height. Poor Liz is lacerated about the nape and fed up with the pain, and was going to be working in the warm kitchen with her shoulders protected only by a tee shirt and apron) and went for it.

Boiled chicken feet? Not your cup of tea?
The dogs LOVE them
My part in this is to bring in the killed birds on demand, supply tea in regular and copious amounts (plus the occasional G+T if the job is running past 'yard-arm') and then, at the end, jointing, vac-packing, finding homes for all this largesse in the freezer(s) and disappearing the bags of feathers, guts, heads and any other unmentionables. I can pluck but I am nothing like as careful or patient as Liz and my birds end up looking a bit like road-kill with torn skin, etc. Liz picks away carefully and gently, busily and efficiently producing lovely looking oven-ready birds. She is very good at it and has found, to her own amazement (Dublin city-girl!) that she thoroughly enjoys it and finds it very therapeutic. I, of course, am not arguing. My job is to hatch (if necessary), rear and 'grow' the birds and then kill them and bring them to the kitchen door and take away any bags of waste. It is a neat and easily worked team effort. We both, of course, thoroughly enjoy eating them!

Sunday morning dawned Hubbard-less but also with a good frost. During my first livestock rounds (which now includes getting 'wet', liquid water out to the birds - the ducks and geese do love to wash their faces and they are unimpressed by that rock-hard crust that comes on the drinkers these mornings. The outside tap is, of course, frozen up, so this involves bringing out buckets of water from the kitchen) I had heard what I thought were a few more Whooper swans flying N-S past us to the West and being called down by more birds on Lough Feigh. I headed down there again with my long lens, hoping to improve on my '365' pics of last week.

No luck on the swans by then (10 am). The Lough is quite low at present and was completely frozen over except among the reed beds, so there was not a swan to be seen, not even the ubiquitous Mute Swans. I had to satisfy myself with a couple of picturesque frosty scenes and a small flock of wigeon zig-zagging about. I'd given up and headed home when I got my best surprise of that day - I put up a snipe. I don't think I have ever seen one before but I know that, in theory, they do live here.

This tiny 'dot' cropped out of the middle of a huge blank
sky is my snipe. First one I'd ever seen, never mind photo'd.
Of course, once it had exploded into flight it was quickly up to a gazillion mph and headed away from me as fast as its little blurring wings could go. I whipped up the 400 mm and fired off a couple pics and thank Heaven for modern "image stabilization" on these fancy lenses. He was outta there. I was relieved to be able to crop this silhouette from the resulting huge, featureless picture of grey sky.

Thawed patch and neat pile of poo tells
the tale of where one sheep slept last night
Finally I have had some fun today helping to clear away the outdoor archery equipment for our Coach, Con who is currently laid up in his bed, too sick to do any hefting and carrying but fretting because all the gear was still 'out there' getting rained on and frozen.

We all laughed at this superb pic of archery
boss-lady, Niamh who had finally nailed that
coffee cup with a superb tight pattern of 3
arrows. Ace shooting Niamh!
Our archery field 'out there', south of Castlerea town is a square with earth banks thrown up all round it like ditches and walls, a copy of an Irish fort (or 'Rath'). In one corner is an access gap for Con's tired old ride-on mower which comes with a handy little trailer.

From shortage to glut. We probably have
'enough' eggs now.
My job, helped by our archery 'boss-lady' Niamh (Brits may need to know this is pronounced "Neave") was to scurry back and forth collecting up all the 3D foam-rubber targets (life-size animals like wild boar, ibex and deer, fox etc), logs, tarpaulins, metal 'tent-peg' pins and pallets, bring them all to dry storage. On Sunday a gang of us will return to demolish the big marquee and then Con will be able to get some healing sleep. Get well soon, Con!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Ten Years a-Blogging!

Yep. November the 18th. It was on this day exactly ten years ago that I first stuck a rather wary toe into the unknown waters of blogging. I can remember I didn't have a clue and I can tell that from those first posts with titles like "Bear with me on this...." and no photographs. I have been a diary-writer all my life and I thought it should be fairly a-kin to that. I had recently bought our Westie bitch 'Deefer'. I thought it would be cute/clever/funny to go exploring the 'blogosphere' as if seeing it through her eyes, so my cast of characters in the early posts had me as 'Dad', Liz and 'Mum', our old dogs as 'Big Sister' and so on.

First ever post. 
I have only 2 bits of advice for anyone thinking that they might try blogging and the first would be don't do that "cute", speaking-as-if-you-were-a-pet thing. It quickly became rather limiting, not funny and plainly rather silly. It also got a bit complicated finding new pseudonyms for everyone. I was quickly looking for a good break-point where I could bail out as 'Deefer' and take over the keyboard myself. The other option was to stop altogether and then, after a break, return, as if by magic, as a human. In the end I took the 30,000 page-views point. It was as good a land mark as any.

My other advice, for what it's worth, is make sure you have something to say; a story to tell or opinions bursting out of you that you just HAVE to share with someone. There is nothing worse than a blog post which says "I'm bored". If you've nothing to say, then park the thing till you have something. If you have an urge to write then this can be easier said than done, but I know this blog flagged a bit when it was all "went to work, came home, walked the dogs, ate, went to bed". It is so much better when I got to 'moved to Ireland' and 'ripped the house to bits and rebuilt it' or we started to accumulate livestock. The latter also made for much better pictures accompanying the text.

There's always food! This a rolled rib roast.
Anyway, here we are, ten years, 1794 posts and 156,884 page views later. I am obviously never destined to be a best seller, I never went "viral" (as they now say) and I have never hob-nobbed it with JK Rowling but I chug along with around 30 people looking in at each post. Mainly you are friends and family and I am eternally grateful for your support, comments and loyalty. Once we were in Ireland the blog also quickly became a sub for a "letter home to Mum" - she gets colour prints of all these posts (thanks to my very generous, UK-based bro' ) and tells me she knows more about what Liz and I get up to now we are 500 miles away than when we were 45 miles away in Kent.

It is quite tricky to get a pic of the 5 sheep as Silas always
comes sprinting over to say 'Hello'.
Meanwhile, back out in the bitterly cold, slightly snowy landscape, the 18th November is also significant as being Day 18 of Silas's visit. You will recall from an earlier post that ewes 'cycle' around a 13-18 day heat and, had they been on heat when he showed up, by today all 4 of them should have come fully on and been 'seen to'. We would now be changing the raddle colour and watching him for another 18 days to see did any of the ewes "return to service". If they picked up the new radde colour that would mean that they had not been made pregnant last time round (and now might be).

A light dusting of snow last night.
In practise it is proving to be a lot less exact and scientific than I thought it would. We have not seen Silas chasing anyone about in any convincing way or mounting anyone. He quickly 'washed off' the raddle colour on the wet grass and none of the ewes have ever been convincingly 'slapped' with the blue paint. Never mind. The lad is staying in there till, probably, the other side of Christmas so he has plenty of time to grow a bit in size and in confidence and, if he doesn't actually 'score' this time he will, we hope, have had some fun learning and practising and he will be all the better for it next winter. For the moment, anyway, he is the only show in town.

The weather has taken a turn for the worse and Thursday saw us getting some first sleet. There was a dusting of white on the car, log piles and the grass this morning and we had to scrape the windows of the car clear for Liz to drive to work. Local comment has it that this is "very early"; they were all enjoying the very mild weather.

3 whooper swams dramatically lit against the dark forestry
and storm clouds
The Whooper swans are back - our winter visitors who join is each November from their Iceland nesting grounds. We first see a few flying in to the local lough (L.Feigh) and then notice their fluting chatter of an evening after dark, which comes to us on the wind or in the stillness. I nipped down to the lough armed with the long lens and caught a few reasonable pictures of them glowing white in the sunshine against the dark of the forestry and an impressive storm cloud. I was also gifted a flock of wigeon - another winter visitor (a duck this time).

Wigeon
In our own birds we are nearly through processing the Hubbard meat chickens and we are very pleased with them. The (5) roosters have all come in with oven ready weights of 2.4 to 2.8 kg and the (7) hens just under 2 kg each. We had one of the hens roasted last night, when a leg each and a breast between us did us proud, so the remaining breast, wings and stripped bits served as cold left overs tonight with garlic bread and our regular Bulgarian "shopska" salad (like Greek salad but with no olives!)

Mute swans down on the lough.
Ah well, I hope you join me in wishing this blog a Happy Birthday for the first ten years. I am not sure I can promise another ten but it is with me for the fore-see able future.