We have a whole selection of animals which we care for, and they keep us busy and happy. In addition to the animals we’ve specifically chosen to look after we also support, or at least host, quite a number of other creatures.
Pheasants – we often have pheasants hanging around. We don’t allow shooting on our land (not that anyone has ever asked or tried) so we’re a bit of a safe haven. At the peak last December we had five males and at least three females, all hanging out. One of the males had unusual white feathering, and he is the only one left with us. He is a little trepidatious, so getting a photo of him is tricky, this is the best I’ve managed so far – I’ll try again:
As well as the pheasant we have crows. Many many crows. They hang out all over the field, and wait for feeding time.
We also have a large tiding (that’s the term according to wikipedia though it doesn’t sound nasty enough) of magpies. The most I’ve ever managed to count is eighteen in one go. They disappear whenever I’m out and about, but quickly return and are rather aggressive with the crows when it comes to getting the left over feed. They also like to perch on the sheep, possibly because there are bits of food in their fleeces from where the ewes get in the way when I’m pouring it out.
We have a myriad of other birds who hang around, particularly in our hedges.
We also have a plethora of rodents. I’ve already talked about rats, but we have mice, voles and moles. I know about the mice and voles because our cat, Honor, regularly brings them in to the house. Usually she plays with them for a bit and then leaves them lying around where I’m most likely to step on them (except for the occasional time when she hides them so they can slowly decompose… there are some drawbacks to underfloor heating).
The moles have become extra excited in our big field and there are a load of molehills. this can be an issue during lambing time, which is still a couple of months away. It’s not that they threaten the lambs in any way, more that from a distance a mole hill looks rather like a tiny Soay lamb curled up on the ground. There have been a number of occasions when I’ve run towards a small Soay lamb thinking it’s been abandoned, and cursing its mother, only to realise it’s a mole hill. Usually there isn’t any one around to witness my embarrassment.
Our last permanent set of residents are the rabbits. We have a warren or two down the bottom of the field, and next to the woods. In the spring and summer we often see them hanging out, though they scarper whenever we get near.
We have other visitors. Foxes, though I haven’t seen them for a while, and deer, though it’s been several years since I last saw them. A couple of hedgehogs have been with us and one may well be hibernating under our hay, which means I try to be careful while getting the hay, and I tend to keep to walking on the pallets we have the hay sitting on. Next door’s ferret also likes to nose around!
All in all we are rewarded with much wildlife.