Life in the raw – well it certainly is if you are a poor hen pheasant here on the Isle of Luing.
Was checking my postbox at the bottom of our farm track around lunch time today when a series of distressed bird calls made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and an immediate flurry of wings virtually scalped me. I almost jumped into the box with the mail for safety!
I turned in time to see a panicked hen pheasant hit the steep – bramble and weed covered roadside bank followed closely by a belligerent sparrowhawk who ploughed in after her at high speed.
All I could imagine when I heard the thud were two dead birds lying there. As I stepped up to take a closer look the sparrowhawk struggled out of the brambles and managed to fly off down the road a good deal slower than he had arrived. Of the prey there was no sign.
Later in the afternoon I was clearing combustible rubbish from a shed to feed the bonfire down at the old quarry – yes it’s Bonfire Night here on Luing – a perfect time to make a clearance. Anyway – while working away at the shed we disturbed a small team of five hen pheasants from the orchard – one was quite laggardly.The rooks and crows were in turmoil and all because of the thug of a sparrowhawk who was stalking the pheasants.
Just as we were taking down the last carload we noticed the fraca had reached the bottom of the lane where the pheasants were legging it for cover.
The sparrowhawk was covering their retreat from a nearby brush covered hilltop and the crows were doing what crows do – ostensibly hanging around making lot’s of noise – always ready to pick up the scraps.
Talking of scraps – last in the line of pheasants was the poor victim of the strike by the sparrowhawk on the roadside earlier —
She is now minus her tail and limps worse than I do – but – she is still out there and her pals were waiting for her by the field gate – anxious that she wouldn’t be left behind.
Last we saw of her was her bald bum as she limped for the gate where she joined up with her pals and it was a reassuring sight to see all five fly off for the safety of thick cover in the valley below.
At least we have the peace of mind to think that she might make it through another night out there on the Isle of Luing —
But it’s tough enough surviving with all parts working – unfortunately I don’t reckon much for the poor pheasant’s chances in her present condition.
I have just learned through local lore that the birds fly in from a managed shooting estate a few miles away on the mainland at Ardmaddy. They certainly received some rough treatment from our local thug on this occasion and may have been better served taking their chances against the ‘sporting’ guns whence they came.
Edit — 05/11/2016
That was Tough Friday when the village cat and an angry sparrowhawk both set up camp on Bardrishaig now it’s Saturday and the pheasants have decided to run the guantlet once more – a feed of fallen apples in the orchard next door means more than life itself it seems. Of the five who were up here yesterday only four returned today. The pheasant with the limp and minus tail feathers was nowhere to be seen.
Nature can be cruel at times.
Edit – 09/11/2016
Would you believe it – I saw our lame – tail-less hen pheasant today along with one of her pals down our lane by the gates where I took the first pics and here she is – alive if not 100% complete.
She still limps but not as bad as she was immediately after the sparrowhawk nailed her – better still – she has a boyfriend. I thought the attraction was the orchard over the wall but the very handsome cock pheasant was there today – feather’s shining – strutting his stuff — what a turnaround.