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Birds, birds and more birds - and rats!


With Autumn finally gone, all the trees bare of leaves and the job of raking them all up almost complete it seems Winter is really on the way. Frosty mornings and cold Northerly winds soon show how flat and open the Fenland is here!

Now that the sugar-beet field beside us has been lifted we have had an influx of rats! Delightful, intelligent creatures, we used to have pet rats, but the wild kind are not welcome here. Because we have chickens, peacocks, geese and guinea fowl there is always a small amount of food wasted, even after we have fed half of the population of Norfolk pigeons! Back to spending a fortune on rat poison, but at least I have discovered one that actually works straight away! We have discovered seven corpses so how many have died elsewhere, out of sight or down their holes? So we are thinning them out and as soon as the poison stops getting eaten we will know we are getting on top of them.
With our own birds, plus wild ones, stoats, weasels, hedgehogs (hopefully asleep) it’s difficult to make sure that the poison is out of reach of them all. Rat boxes tend to get shunned, live traps completely ignored so it’s down the holes and cover them up!
OH has a fishing shed which is full of all the usual plus lovely smelling baits and additives and a Mecca for the local mice, so it’s traps in there as it’s out of reach of anything else. Bit of a shock when he discovered two large rats in the traps and the two of us grovelling about on the floor with torches didn’t discover where they had got in. So next day it was walk around the outside of the shed to search there. It didn’t take much to discover the way in, not seen from the inside. On moving some sheeting materials I found that the the windowsill was completely rotten and gnawed.

With OH at work during daylight hours it was up to me to make some repairs. Now I would show you the ‘after’ picture but my carpentry skills are not perfect and though it works fine, with window removed, new wood inserted in the side and new sill, I don’t think I quite want to have it up to scrutiny by people who could do a better job!

With the sugar-beet field empty and all the beet heaped at the end ready for collection to the factory, we have had another influx. This one much more welcome – hundreds of Whooper Swans. If you could put the two following photo’s end to end you would have a small idea of how many there are. More every day, they must talk to each other and tell them there is a field of sugar-beet bits and tops to feast on!

This is our wire fence, so you can see how close they are.

We are not far from the Welney Wetland Centre as the crow flies – or in this case the Swan flies and they all disappear back there every night to safely stay on the water away from predators.

Other birds seen were a pair of Buzzards on the tree at the end of our field, just hope they weren’t eyeing up the little Bantams which came from my daughter when they needed a new home. There are seven of them sitting here in the sun. Some on the barrow and two on the floor, the little hen sitting in the box!

The other two which came from my daughter have to live up near the bungalow and sleep in a rabbit hutch in the barn! Called Charlie and Missy, Charlie is extremely bolshy and won’t stop fighting with any other cockerel including the large full size ones. So they have to live this side of the gate and he can then only glower at the other through the gate. I did tack rush matting along the bottom of the gate to stop him seeing through, which has partly solved the problem, but he can see through another section further round and creates merry h… if he can see anyone! They are both Frizzle Bantams, here sitting in the sun on the garden edging.

Boris sadly didn’t get over his eye complaint even with the eye drops from the vet and is now almost blind in one eye. Not a major problem for him, but he does miss the food held out to him sometimes – but not for long! He must be ancient now, so is doing well all things considered. His girls Lily and Gracie have been taking an interest in the Swans next door as they can see them through the wire fence. Perhaps they think they are more Geese, just hope they don’t decide to fly over and investigate. The girls can fly, not Boris as he is too fat!

Now I have written another blog before I completed the one promised months ago about Foggy Bottom at Bressingham. So bear with me and tomorrow I will at last add the photo’s to remind us all of the lovely sunny days we had!
Thank you for reading this far, through all the rat infested bit!

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Previous post: Autumn and Winter lack of gardening

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Gosh...don’t think I could handle that HSG! I remember my step-dad going around killing them when they had gone dozey from the poison. He has a lot of birds too. And thats why I’ll never have any here!

9 Dec, 2017


Lovely to see those swans though, and you live in a lovely place. :)

9 Dec, 2017


Thanks for reading it Karen. Snow falling this morning so paranoia will set in if there are too many tracks about. Our birds are NOT impressed with the weather. Boris and girls came out of their house and shifted straight into one of the barns!

10 Dec, 2017


Loved your blog HoneySG. Always feel envious (in a nice way) when I read about your birds. Never had the heart to re-commence keeping them after the 1976 fire. Should have done.

Boris and the girls look as if they are thriving.
Dare I ask if you use goose eggs for cooking? An old neighbour used to send me some and my sponge cakes always looked golden before they were baked. Made lovely omelettes!

Rats are clever. We had some that burrowed into our garden shed. Traps got rid of them but I am always conscious of the fact that they could return even though the original holes now have cement in them.

Saw some unusual fowl at the Owl Centre, Kington, Herefordshire when we visited in September but camera charge had fizzled out so couldn't take any images. The Bantams were so pretty.

10 Dec, 2017


Thank you Eirlys, the birds are a joy to watch, ours and the wild ones, but not such a joy when you have to tend to them in the snow and rain, but you can't have it all ways.

Boris might be a less good with his sight but is still thriving and though he wasn't impressed with the weather this morning, dashed out when I threw them some chopped up carrot to eat. He's not as keen on that as the girls, much prefers bread or cake, but does like a bit of lettuce - not that I can afford to keep three geese in the quantity of Little Gem lettuces they would like!

Saw no tracks in the snow from rats this morning, so they are either as loath to go out in the cold as everyone else or they really have been thinned out.

I know what you mean about cameras, never have it to hand when you need to take a photo quick, mine has an annoying tinkling noise when you turn it on, so if you are anywhere near the bird, it has flown off before you can raise the camera - must sort that out.

The Bantams are sweet, they have long feathers on their feet which do tend to get clogged with mud if it's really wet and no doubt with snow, or perhaps they will act as snow-shoes and they will get about better!

10 Dec, 2017


lovely and interesting :o)

we often see swans flying past on their way to the North Cave Wetlands. though they don't stay there before moving on to other feeding grounds also see lots of geese that feed on the Humber flats.

10 Dec, 2017


Thanks Seaburn for finding it interesting, even if it is a bit of a horror story in places! We usually have wheat or Rape in the next door fields so this is the first time that we have seen the Swans this close. They have been a couple of fields over before so you could see them coming and going and of course hear them.

10 Dec, 2017


Thanks Stera, Boris is of course old and we dread the day that he will no longer be with us. Just to cap it all one of the (also very elderly) Guinea Fowl is acting strangely and trying to sit in Charlie and Missy's hut rather than go up to roost. OH found him in the front garden after dusk which is really strange as the two of them usually go up to roost really early - early to bed and early to rise! After shooing him back out of the snow into the barn he eventually went up to roost, but I think it's a bad sign.
As for the blog growing, don't encourage me, you might regret it!!

10 Dec, 2017


Your mention of the Bantams' feet reminded me of a caravan stay at a Devon CL. There were peacocks there and they used to perch on the fence wires. Many of their claws were missing! Seems they perched overnight and the frost got to them. I did wonder why they didn't have a nice warm hut in to which they could go,

10 Dec, 2017


Poor things Eirlys! Ours sometimes in the summer perch in the apple trees, on the chicken run ledge or even on the roof, but never in the winter.

11 Dec, 2017


When we visited Llan(drin)dod Lake (Powys) in October and a lone Hooper swan had landed. There was a lot of debate as to where it had come from and where it was headed. It vanished after a few days but was still 'the talk of the town' for weeks after. So next year, if a Hooper should come by again, we will point him/her in the direction of Norfolk!

14 Dec, 2017


That's interesting White horse, one lone Swan must be really unusual being flock birds. Perhaps it was blown off course or with all the technology these days who knows what effect they have on whatever the birds use to track their progress.
We had a lady come to take videos of the Swans from Welney and was looking for one particular bird amongst that lot! We thought there were about 200, but she said there were more like 500! Amazing sight and all because of the beet field.

18 Dec, 2017

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