Friday 4 December 2009
We had our first shoot at the start of the week, a wet and wind blown affair. It stopped raining mid morning and the birds flew superbly on a variable wind. The final bag was between sixty and seventy, mostly Pheasants, with a dozen Partridge and a dozen pigeon. Surprisingly we saw very few Duck and no Geese. On the first drive we are required to bring in the water meadow above our top boundary. A broad expanse criss- crossed by spring ditches, it is normally a good place to put up some ducks and geese early in the day. This time we saw no duck and no geese, but did disturb a few Snipe that skewed away on the wind. After a very wet period there is a lot of standing water in the meadows so it may be that the Ducks are spoilt for choice for a place to splash and dibble. On our second drive, a brutal trek across saturated plough, we put up many Partridges, the first fifty of which eschewed an easy exit downwind to fly directly into a forty mile an hour wind and over a main road to safety. Fortunately we saw plenty in the top strip of Maize, but I reckon we could have surrounded that field with a cast of thousands and that first wave of Partridges would still have headed into the wind and away, so determined were they on their course of action we had no chance of driving them over the guns. Old Labrador Zebo, had a great day. After a couple of weeks banging his gums and surviving on basic rations while fretting over a bitch in season, he had lost a lot of weight. I was in two minds as to whether to take him shooting. He worked his way steadily through the day, picking up birds from every drive. Nephew Otis failed to impress. After giving everything for the first few drives, he was a spent force for the last two, and bumbled along behind me asking to go home.
The river has risen dramatically in a week, mainly due to surface run off. Much of the water sitting in the water meadows is working its way down into the aquifers, the spring ditches are not flowing yet, although it can only be a matter of weeks before they start to run. A large dead Ash tree has come down in the wind along with a few other limbs, although the Amber tree near the fishing hut clings on to its final few leaves. The flush of water is giving the river a good scour, gravels are cleaned and silt moved on. With the banks edged in and the weed cut out the channel is completely exposed to the flow and is currently getting a thorough makeover.
The Merlin is back. While driving up the lane earlier this week, it darted out from the hedgerow. Flying along in front of the car, rising and dipping in flight for sixty yards or more before banking left through a gap in the hedge. Incredibly agile in the air, they have been turning up here for some years now.
The week ended with Christmas tree duty. The School and Village Hall both required trees for Christmas Fairs pending. The Christmas trees down hear currently fall into three categories. Very small (less than 3ft), Bloody Huge (over 40ft) and a uniquely shaped mid range selection; The School got a mighty fine six foot Christmas Bush, and the Village hall a reasonable twelve footer replete with nest.