Friday, 16 December 2011

Bloggers Block

This is a bit of a ramble as I can't think of anything very interesting or funny to write about but I needed to write something so I could wish everyone a Happy Christmas.

At least the weather is turning more seasonal and with the first frosts the birds are returning in force to the feeders.  From my favourite chair in the living room I look out of one window to my feeding station on the old cobnut tree.  Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Woodpeckers, Blue tits and Coal tits (plus the Sparrow Hawk) have been regular visitors all year but they have now again being joined by the Nuthatches, Long tailed tits and of course the noisy but entertaining Ring Necked Parakeets.  Interestingly the smaller birds will happily feed and perch alongside the Parakeets but will not go anywhere near the Nuthatches.  The pheasants also like to perch in the tree especially if it is frosty so I'm guessing they suffer with cold feet.

From the other window I look out over the side garden that slopes up to my bird table.  Here the quieter garden birds, like Blackbirds and Sparrows visit and I am pleased to say my friendly Robin has turned up again after being absent all summer.... just in time for a maggoty Christmas treat:)

Further afield but still visible from my chair the Buzzards and Crows like to catch the thermals above the woods and will glide around for ages, hardly moving their wings.  It is so enjoyable being able to watch the birds from the warmth of my living room but rather embarrassing when people are visiting and I realise that I don't know what they've been talking about because I've been gazing out the window instead of paying them attention.

The weather might be colder but there is still lots of conservation work to do with the Downland Project.  In fact there is always conservation work to do if anyone else fancies volunteering in the New Year :))  Since my last post we have helped put up temporary fencing on part of Banstead Down so it can be grazed by sheep, helped clear scrub and old logs from Saltbox SSSI and helped with several sheepy activities. 

I have found, over the years, that any job involving animals or children frequently takes longer than one would have first anticipated and sheep moves, however well they are planned, are no exception. The project's sheep are in general quite obliging.  However inevitably we do occasionally have a problem and that is what happened this week when we were moving 19 sheep from a field adjoining common land at Manor Park, Caterham. 

The field is down a slope and, as it had rained, the common was too wet, slippery and liable to damage to take the trailer down to the field, so we put the sheep into a small pen using portable hurdles and then, along with several other volunteers, we gradually shuffled the hurdles with sheep still enclosed up the hill towards the trailer situated in the car park at the top. All was going well until one of the pesky Beulahs spotted a little gap under a hurdle and in a flash pushed his way out.  This was a dodgy situation as the common opens on to a busy road and is used by many dog walkers. However, the project's sheep dog, Jack, soon had the escapee keen to return to his friends. The problem was, if we created a gap in the hurdles to let the escapee back in, we risked letting the other sheep out!  For a little while the escapee ran first one way round the outside of the pen and then the other while us humans tried to judge the best time to open it up.  Eventually the moment was right, we pulled two of the hurdles apart and in he popped.  I think everyone, including the sheep, breathed a sigh of relief and we carried on with our slow shuffle up the hill and into the trailer with only a few more stops to help a Jacob that repeatedly got his horns stuck in a hurdle...I'm sure he was doing on purpose...he just didn't like the Beulah getting all the attention:)

Beulah Speckled Face
Another recent move that took an unexpectedly long time was on a cold windy day when twelve of the thirty one sheep at High Elms, Bromley needed to be taken to the newly fenced area on Banstead Down. The remaining nineteen would be taken to Hutchinsons Bank a couple of days later. All the sheep needed their hooves trimmed. The plan was to catch up the sheep, separate those for Banstead, trim their hooves, load them on to the trailer and release the Hutchinson Bank ones to be done another day.  All went well and we were looking forward to an early lunch when the grazing officer was informed that the electric fencing at Banstead hadn't been completed as expected.  To cut a long story short we ended up releasing the Banstead sheep, re-catching the Hutchinson's sheep, trimming all their hooves (a back breaking job done by the grazing officer and his assistant).  Then transporting them in two loads to Hutchinsons Bank. By the time we had safely un-loaded the last lot it was just about dark and the moon was up (see pic below).  We were all cold, tired and hungry...then bizarrely someone suddenly produced a bag of doughnuts.  It was soooo yummy I've been craving doughnuts ever since:)

Not a very entertaining post so if you made it to the end, Well Done.  You can be rewarded with three very silly Christmas sheep jokes:

Q...What do Jacob sheep hang on their Christmas trees?   A...Hornaments (Jacobs have horns:))
Q...What do sheep say to each other at Christmastime?    A...Merry Christmas to ewe:))
Q...What do sheep say to shepherds at Christmastime?     A...Season's Bleatings:))

Hope you all have a Lovely Reeelaaaaxing Christmas with lots of fun and laughter.  We will if we manage to get the new bath in which still sits majestically in the middle of the living room!