Well, summer is at an end again it seems; I’m still not entirely sure that it started, but the constant rain and the fact that I NEED to have the heating on in the evenings is a definite hint that whatever it was, it is definitely over.
Now, this weeks sighting is not strictly true wildlife, but there are so many running around at the moment, and they are a quintessential part of the British countryside. And they make me laugh.
Pheasants! Or to be specific, the common or ring necked pheasant. Never was there a more daft nor tasty introduced wing-ed thing to this country. Actually the jury is out on the tasty part, but you can’t beat pheasant curry. Trust me, I work on a farm.
Pheasants are a game bird, and they have all been released in readiness for the shooting season which begins on October 1st. Here in Ardeley, shooting is quite a popular hobby, with many a gentleman (or a lady) frequenting the jolly waggoner’s after a fine day with the guns (I have no idea if any one that shoots says that, but it sounds good doesn’t it?). These birds were introduced way back in Roman times, and have settled down very well despite the stark differences between soggy England and their native home on the Asian grasslands. As a relatively plump bird they are relatively useless fliers, preferring to run from danger, normally in a straight line, looking over their shoulder at the approaching car, and performing no evasive manoeuvres to get out of the way.
But, despite the comical value, the cock birds are very beautiful when fully grown. If they survive their first year, pheasants are very capable and well adapted to British farmland, feeding on invertebrates and roosting in the hedgerows and woodland patches that lie adjacent to farmer’s fields. On the farm, we seem to have a special kind of pheasant. Normally they look like this.
Ours look like this.
Isn’t he handsome! These are melanistic mutants; not quite as scary as it sounds. Basically, any dark pigment in thier plumage is over developed, and this gets passed on through the genes to the pheasants offspring. Which I guess is why there are so many of these particular pheasants on the farm; chicks don’t tend to stray too far from where they were hatched. They are quite tame as well, and if you sit quietly at dusk, the male whose territory is in vicarage field will come pretty close to you, chiriping away and looking at you as if he is deciding whether or not you are any good to eat. Hopefully, he will survive another shooting season and go on to father more deep glossy blue green chicks.