The velociraptors

At home they are known as “the velociraptors”. They turn up at sunrise and can be seen running in groups across our lawn, heads extended, mouths open, with just one thing on their mind. Food! Sometimes they gather in front of the kitchen window and their intentions are clear to see. We have what they want and they aren’t going to leave until we give it to them.

So it is that every time we open the back door to go and feed our pig and chickens in the morning, we are met by a horde of hungry pheasants. Bred by the farm next door for shooting parties, I started tempting them on to our land many years ago with a trail of mixed corn. Now they either live on our land or in the woods on the other side of the lane. The neighbours don’t shoot as often these days, but when I hear them blasting away down the old coach road, I keep my fingers firmly crossed that all our “garden pets” are well out of the way. Sometimes it is a few days until all heads have been counted and it’s a worrying time.

We currently have a dozen girls and two boys. The girls in particular are very friendly and several will come within a couple of feet. The other morning I was changing the water outside the porch door and I spotted the girls over the other side of the lawn. They were about ten yards away. I thought no more of it as I rinsed the bowl, filled it with fresh water and placed it carefully on the path. I stood up to find them no more than a few feet away, standing expectantly in a large semi-circle. Then one of them chirped. It was a silly noise for such a large bird, but it clearly meant “where is our breakfast”. I walked to the shed with all the girls in tow and they waited until I had filled the bird feeders and laid several piles of corn on the old railway sleepers.

I keep meaning to take some photographs of them, but the mornings lately have been very dull. The image featured above was taken of one of the boys who used to visit the other year. He was the most dominant of three males who came around at the same time. One had a white collar and the other one didn’t – we nicknamed them Tom, Dick and Harry. I hadn’t appreciated the amount of silver on this boy though until I posted this photograph in my forum. One of the guys is very knowledgeable and he identified this chap as having leucistic tendencies. I had to look it up, but it means the birds are abnormally pale or washed out, although the normal pattern and colour of the plumage is discernible.

I’m so glad I took the photograph when I did because we haven’t seen this particular boy around for a while. I would like to think he moved on to pastures new with one of his girlfriends.

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