Blossoming

Is it really here? Was last night the end of frost for the time being? Can we whisper S P R I N G?

We had an omen today.

Our Pied Flycatcher flew in from Africa and… straight into a shed.

This rather fuzzy picture shows him being redirected

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towards his reserved quarters which we described here. (As soon as we unblocked the entrance a pair of sparrows were inspecting the box)

Elsewhere chicks are growing

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Lambs are congregating

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Ponds are vibrating

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and insects are on the move

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And Blossom is blossoming…

The cherry in the polytunnel

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and the ornamental ones outside

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Blackthorn is everywhere

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Plum

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Pear

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Time to blossom

Mobility aids for Chicks

We have hatched many many hen eggs over the years and it was not until last May that we had a case of Splayed Leg.

It took as a little research to find the solution:

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The full story can be read here and here.

And now Hubble looks like this:

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a slightly too feisty cockerel, in charge of five Speckled Sussex hens

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So we were ready when it happened again this month

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This time the, as yet, un-named chick only took two days to find his/her own feet

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and join her/his peers

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We just hope we don’t have a case of Crooked Toes and have to make chick sandals

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Chilled Lamb

You can see where our wind has been coming from today:

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In other words, straight from the arctic bringing… chill:

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Recently the skies have held more than the usual quota of Buzzards, Kites:

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and Ravens

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All keeping a close eye on the ground below

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criss-crossing the fields

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passing on the news

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Because it is lambing time

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They are mainly looking for nutrition-rich after-birth, which they won’t find in the field next to us as it is designated as the nursery for some of the weaker, indoor born lambs

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They are brought in by taxi

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and then have to sort themselves out

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Ewes closely inspecting the numbers

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until they know they have their right lambs

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Our small contribution is to provide the water supply

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through the fence

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and into the trough

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From where it is magically turned into milk

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A happy scene

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(Before the arctic blast)

Estate Agency Problems

We have a very high bird nesting density here, helped by our range of habitats, hard to find in the surrounding fields, plus the food supplements we provide. In spite of there being so many birds they mainly go about their nesting in an unobtrusive way.

We have quite a lot of nest boxes on site. One has often be used by visiting Flycatchers. The problem is that they arrive quite late and in the meantime Tits and Sparrows try to take it over. They have plenty of other places to go so we have to intervene

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We can’t move without tripping over wrens is they skit from woodpile to compost heap. Each male builds several nests and takes a potential suitor on a tour to see which they like best. That doesn’t stop him starting a bigamous relationship in one of the others. You would think with all that work they would take advantage of ready built properties. Oh no

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this one is expending vast amounts of energy building a nest next to a vacant residence, which was used by a wren last year.

Hot Buzz

Temperatures we have not seen for a long time here today

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triggers our bees to head off to see what they can find

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The Hazel is a big attraction

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not just for our bees

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but others visiting

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and this Tortoiseshell, becoming active after its winter hibernation

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Time to follow the bees home

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and take advantage of the sun to have our first look inside this year

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All seems well

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and although we did not see the Queen she must be there as brood is being tended

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Time to put in the Queen excluder to keep the honey separate from the brood cells

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Near by, other young things are growing

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Birds of Passage

We had a bit of a shock at the end of the afternoon two days ago

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Not one

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but a couple of hundred Fieldfares in the next door field

(the photos are bit blurry!)

In the past we have had wintering groups of Thrushes and Fieldfares and just last month we had a temporary visitor stocking up in the cold.

We thought these birds would have flown north by now

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but a bit of research shows that might not happen until next month.

Anyway, this flock was on the move

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After a short time they were up and away

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One of the locals wondered why they bothered

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Equinoctial incubating

At 9.37 this morning we passed that magic moment when our noxes were equal and signalled the time to think about new life.

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Our main hen flock now has a good mixture of varieties

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which results in a varied range of egg colour from a bluish tinge through white and a range of browns to deep chocolate. When we sell our eggs we include a mixture of colours in each box.
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In the past we have both bought in point of lay birds and hatched eggs, both bought in and our own. When we have a well timed broody we can use her otherwise it is down to the incubators.

This year we decided to be more organised in two respects. Firstly, after suffering brought in diseases, we will not buy any more hens from outside. Secondly, we agreed to do all our hatching in one cohort. We have sometimes in the past been in the situation of looking after newly hatched chicks, older ones still needing a heat lamp and pullets too young to join the main flock – all at the same time, needing lots of different accommodations.

So after making a draught proof corner of the sitting room

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we set off 28 eggs on a 21 day journey

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We bought half a dozen Blue Splash French Maran – like this

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half a dozen Cuckoo Maran – a bit like this

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Also six Australorp. This is Honey currently our only Australorp – she is twice as big as some of the hens and occupies top position

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and also used some of our own eggs

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Eight of the latter came from our single-breed flock of Speckled Sussex
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with a couple of miscellaneous thrown in for good measure.

Here’s hoping for as few males as possible…