It's not every morning that you look out of your window and see about 200 Geese wandering past. But it was one such morning for Mum! After the maize was cut, the soil has been raked and agitated and is obviously a culinary delight for all passing souls (particularly geese and corvids). Canada geese have a diet of grass, roots, cereal leaves and spilled grain. The occasional small insect does not offend either. How we should have liked to have been there sorting through the bug-life at first light with them!
With much honking and grottling the Canada geese dibbled into the earth and walked systematically across the field. Some stood tall and proud, scanning the surroundings - on the look out for danger. Others argued amongst themselves and chivvied slow-coaches along. With their striking white cheeks and chin-strap on their jet black heads they made a stunning picture.
But as one party neared the garden gate it became apparent that a pair of geese were definitely in charge. A male and female Grey Lag! Although quite a big smaller than the Canadas (but very stout and chunky) they were most certainly the bosses and stood no truck at all. By comparison their yellow beaks shone brightly, although their coats were far less striking than their bigger companions. Gordon xxx
There have been the strangest of clouds wafting over Wattlebury recently. A pair of Unicorn horns drifted past on Monday and the strangest of creatures have taken shape high in the sky. We have had a predominant easterly wind for well over a week now. Could that be the reason?
And today a rowdy group of teenage Starlings descended on the bird table at Wattlebury Cottage. With bodies grown-up, but heads still young, their spotty mis-matched coats look very bizarre. At this age they keep together in flocks, not pairing off in the first year, but living in adolescent communities until next April or May. In a month's time we should see them flock together in huge numbers - the murmuration - although because Firgus has cut down the big trees - they will have to find somewhere else to roost! Many of the smaller birds appear at the food table at the same time. Chaos! Sparrows, chaffinches, tits on the feeders - a real example of safety in numbers.
Starlings have been observed feeding on fermenting over-ripe fruit, which has led to the speculation that they might become intoxicated by the alcohol. Perhaps this wild and rather raucous visitation this morning might have been fuelled by too much fallen autumnal fruit! Gordon xxx
It was a perfect autumn day. The path to Wattlebury Church was dry, albeit somewhat nobbly with fallen acorns. The sun rose through the mist over the downs like a fiery golden ball, ablaze with expectation. Yes - it was to be a very exciting day! The day of the Harvest Festival!
The young cockerels and pullets looked excitedly out from their stable as Mum bustled about making sure everyone was ready for the walk into the village.
"We plough the fields and scatter" she trilled as she swept vigorously in no particular direction. Mum was very excited.
"You know Gordon, Dad and I had that hymn at our Wedding! We got married in the autumn many moons ago and I sang so loudly - it was one of the happiest days of my life!"
Mum still sings - most of the time actually. Well, if you can call it singing.
"And - you'll laugh at this Gordon - our friend Peter Graves was the Vicar!"
I managed to crease up one side of my wattle in acknowledgement.
"I even had autumn leaves on my wedding dress - not real ones obviously - just in the pattern. Although there were a lot of leaves in the Churchyard when we had our photo taken. I'll see if I can find you an old photo...."
"Enough of this Gordon! Time we set off or we will be late. Can you just finish that tidying over there for me please? Thank you!"
I napped a wayward fly.
As we walked along the path to Wattlebury with our gifts Mum told us about the Harvest Festival Suppers that she used to go to when she was a young pullet. The local farmers in Ridgewyck would cook and wait on the tables for local villagers. Much ale was consumed by the sound of it - and a merry old time was had by all. The money raised from the tickets went towards the upkeep of the village hall. What a good idea.
"Sadly those farmers who dressed in aprons and hats and worked their socks off to make it a night to remember all year are old now Gordon, and the Harvest Suppers haven't been held for many a year."
There was a note of sadness in Mum's voice as she thought out loud. I gently brushed her leg with my beak and together we put our best foot forward towards the Church.
Sammy Squirrel joined us from his drey, his little arms full of the shiniest, plumpest acorns that you have ever seen. Harvey bounded across our paddock to meet us at the gate - a large Bonio gently resting in his mouth - and little Honey galloped behind with a Salami Chewstick. Fluffy the ewe and her friends appeared out of the mist to join our party and Martha, Farmer Richard's cow waited for the rest of the herd at the top of the field. The Church was going to be full.
"Keep up please" Mum called to the loitering cockerels who had espied some tasty morsels in the hedgerow.
We had brought with us an assortment of nibblings that we had saved. A few sunflower seeds and some crusts. One or two Daddy Long-legs and a couple of worms - a little uninspiring-looking now, but they were okay when they were still wiggling.
Mr Fox could be seen on the far side of the Big Field - fortunately not carrying one of Peter's kin, but a basket of blackberries, which he gently placed down at the Church Gate and then disappeared back into the wood. Robin fluttered overhead as he joined us and we could now hear the Church Bells ringing out over Wattlebury.
"All of your gifts will go towards the older creatures that are unable to catch as much food for themselves now." Mum told the eager young pullets who had caught up with us as we climbed the path. And as an afterthought added "And there will be gifts for those dear Farmer Friends too."
And we quietly and respectfully filed through the cool darkness of the Church porch to be met by the most wondrous array of colour and autumn gifts and flowers imaginable! Sheaves of corn, baskets of produce, flowers of every colour - almost too bright to look at - apples by the plenty, fruits and vegetables of all kinds. We put our rather modest gifts by the altar and waited for the service to begin.
But what was that noise? A gruffing, grunting, scraping noise. And there was Peter Rabbit reversing through the door dragging the biggest cob of maize in his teeth that you have ever seen. With a yank and a tug and a huff and a puff he pulled it all the way up the aisle, until totally exhausted he flopped on the cool stone floor - and we all burst into applause! Well done Pete! Gordon and Sylvia xxx
The skies over Wattlebury have periodically been filled with swallows over the last two weeks. Diving and soaring - practising for their epic journey once more. The hedgerow where the dainty Chiffchaff uttered his rather monotonous and incessant tones is now silent. There will of course be our winter visitors - we look forward to that - but of our resident birds we all love the Thrush family. The Blackbird with its beautiful song, the loud and rather harsh song of the Mistle Thrush and the clear and tuneful Song Thrush.
Mum, undecided even as she reached Wattlebury Village Hall where the EU referendum was taking place in June, says she made her mind up about which way to vote in the car park.
"The Song Thrush said 'Vote Leave, Vote Leave' Gordon" she told me. "And so that's what I did"
But our favourite of the family is the Robin. With his clear, high and very varied sweet notes and twitters, he brightens the darkest of winter days. Who can be miserable with such unrivalled enthusiasm for life and with such a bright and cheery redbreast! No wonder everyone loves the Robin. Mum once told me that her favourite Christmas card has snow, a postbox , a robin and a liberal scattering of glitter on the front of it.
As others leave, you still remain
With cheery song, come sun or rain
Hopping, bopping, flitting through
Dear Friend Robin, loyal and true.
We have a Rookery in our tall Ash Trees that overlook our little farm. In spring it becomes the noisiest place imaginable. The rooks squabble over the best stick and the trees bend and sway as the nests are re-furbished for the new year. I must admit they do a pretty good job of entwining twigs and branches in such high and exposed trees. I have never seen one collapse - even in the strongest of winds. Harvey's favourite time of the year is when the youngsters leave the safety of their nest for the first time. They topple and cling precariously to any available branch as they get lower and lower. Their parents must be holding their breath! Especially as Harvey is waiting expectantly as the fledgling gets closer and closer!
Young crows leave their nests at around a month old. Jackdaws are fed by their parents for a further month until they are left to their own devices, while young rooks and crows stay with the adults until the late summer. Carrion crows sometimes remain in family groups through the winter.
However it is now autumn and with winter approaching, the rooks are joining up with the crows (normally more solitary and aloof fellows) and the jackdaws. We had several jackdaws in the top of our Water Tower in the yard this year. They are a real nusience as they think they can help themselves to our food. Sometimes the young ones weasel into our outside pens and we take great delight in sitting on them and dragging them around - that is until Mum tells us off and rescues the offending thief.
Multi-species flocks of corvids gather during the winter months, especially near open farmland and grassland and pastures where invertebrate populations (morsels to you and me!) are highest. Generally, numbers will peak around Christmas time with the birds returning to their breeding areas around February. There is the occasional magpie or jay to be seen, but they stay mainly separate from the black flock. One particular roost that we heard of in Cornwall numbered 200 carrion crows, 2,500 rooks and 7-8,000 jackdaws!
Outside the breeding season, daytime flocks form from early afternoon. They gather around these abundant food sources, particularly liking the freshly ploughed fields on the Wattlebury estate, and large numbers improve the chances of locating sources of food. Across the big field when the trees are bare in December, sometimes the gang will alight there and for all the world it looks like a tree completely covered in black liquorice. How do they all fit? More pairs of eyes mean safety in numbers, too: predators are more likely to be spotted and the flock can ‘mob’ them and drive them away. Mind you poor Mr Buzz and Kit and Kate Kite are hardly likely to want to predate them - but they certainly do have a hard time if they venture too near.
Just this morning on the way to Wattlebury Green we noticed an assorted corvid clan picking some of the remaining maize and carrying it to a communal feasting place. Each spring every species keeps itself to itself, but come autumn they work together for their survival and well-being. Gordon xxx
Pauly Turkey is a good old stick. Well not so much a stick, really. She has been broodified for several weeks now and her loyal chum, Lucy the Aylesbury Duck, lays an egg each day for her to nestle down on. They can be found in the back of the stable with us, snuggled together and as warm as toast. In fact Pauly takes the opportunity when Mum gets the hose out to nip smartly into the yard and have her toes bathed so that she might cool down a little. Then she will usually zip along to the feed trough, clicking to herself as goes and search for tasty morsels.
For a turkey, Pauly is remarkably agile. So as not to waste a second she moves as if treading on hot coals - lifting each leg high in the air and rolling slightly as she speeds along. We all like Pauly. And she is very useful for cuddling down with if we get chilly.
Lucy has bad legs. She wasn't made for walking great distances. Her destiny was, like Pauly, for something else. We never speak of this. So Mum lifts Lucy into her pool for a bathe in the morning, which she loves.
Good friends and the strangest of companions. In fact as we settle down at night I look around and think that we are a bit of an odd bunch. At the moment there is Big Bob, Buff Bob, Brighton Bob, Broody Bob and Black Bob. Reuben and Irene, Dainty, Sylvia and me. And whoever else wants to join us are all most welcome. Gordon and Sylvia xxx
One thing as is certain as certain, and that is - when the maize is due to be harvested on the Wattlebury Estate - it will rain. Today is the day that the tractors are moving in - we have already heard them rumble past - and through the morning fog the rain has arrived. Steady and rather determined-looking rain too.
Dad is helping out at our local Poultry Show sale today. He has taken a quartet of Silver Sebrights and a pair of Black Orpingtons. Sylvia was very proud to see the latest generation of fine Silvers loaded into the car with two of Gareth's youngsters. Dad assured us that he will find them suitable and kind new owners.
And Mum, Kizzie and Harvey had a trip to the seaside yesterday! They walked along the promenade in the sunshine and met lots of fellow hoomans and their dogs doing likewise.
One of our favourite books in Harvest's Library is called 'The Miseries of Human Life' written by James Beresford in 1806. It reminded me of a comical quote from the fellow -
'After going down to the beach, lingering and shivering about the sands for an hour till you can snatch courage to make your own attempt to be drowned, with a choice of pitching yourself headlong into the raging deep, or crawling down the steps and making a low bow to the first wave that you can catch in the humour to swallow you up and wreck your breathless carcase against the shore. Then, on regaining land in your new character (that of a bruised and bleeding cripple), you discover that your towel is safely locked up at home.'
I think you can appreciate why us chickens and the sea don't mix.
Hello! My name is Gordon and I am a Gold Sebright and my best friend is Sylvia. She is a Silver Sebright. We live with our foster parents on a small farm in the country. We thought that we would put our take on life and what we get up to through the year into a diary for you. All the characters are real and the events are a true record, interpreted with a modicum of poetic licence. We hope you enjoy it. Love Gordon and Sylvia