##Bird-day News

###It’s been quite a week for birds.

Last weekend I discovered I’d been outwitted again by a pair of critters with brains the size of a pinhead, namely Gus the zebra finch and his consort, an unnamed female. A month or so back we found Tina, Gus’s first mate, dead in her waterbowl, quite unexpectedly. Or maybe not. A couple of months earlier she’d been rescued from the jaws of death, literally, i.e. Treacle the cat’s jaws, after she escaped when I was changing the water. She seemed to get over the incident very quickly, but perhaps there was some lasting damage. Poor Augustina. So I replaced her with one of the latest batch of young finches, which we never got round to christening, so that Gus wouldn’t be alone, and kept an eye open for any eggs appearing. Well, somehow or other I managed to miss a batch as there is now a vocal young finch in the nest. We think just the one, but I wouldn’t put money on it. We’ll soon find out. Here’s Rors’ drawing of Gus.

Gus pic

Then ducklings. Wild ducks have tendency to build their nests in really dumb places, by which I mean places where they are easily disturbed. We have a lot of acres of woodland around our lakes but the ducks ignore all that and insist on nest-building in exposed patches of banking. The latest one is on the dam wall of the smallest lake, not only an area where anglers regularly set up to fish but also very close to the drive so that the mother duck is always being scared off her eggs by us passing by. Some unavoidable strimming scared her off for quite a while, and we feared for good. There were ten eggs in the nest so, as we’ve done before in abandonment situations, we took half of them. At least this way some of the brood will survive and there’s some left in case mother does come back. Previous times we’ve had a handy brooding hen or bantam to pop the eggs under, but not this time, so into the incubator they went. We candled them and a few looked viable. Sure enough, just a few days later three hatched.


They’ve been moved a few times now – first into the big incubator, then the playground and now they’re under the red lamp in the stable. They’re very timid – their wild instincts are very strong – so I don’t think they’ll stay with us for long once they’re old enough to join the main flock. All the others have flown off in the past.

And I also have more turkeylets, including four Rouge Ardennes purebreds. Just as well, since one of my breeding females has disappeared, presumed eaten by something since we found some feather and broken eggshells. She’d slunk off somewhere to brood and we couldn’t find where in the long grass of the fields. The other one has only been spotted a few times recently. She too appears to have gone somewhere to brood, and again we can’t find where. Turkeys always manage to find weird and totally unpredictable spots to lay their eggs in. Fortunately, I’d found her previous nest and put the eggs into the incubator. I’d forgotten to record the date I did that so I was taken by surprise when the eggs started pipping a few days ago. About half hatched, which isn’t a bad return for turkeys. There are three Rogue/black hybrids as well as the four purebreds. At least one of my black females had found the nest and added to it.

More baby turkies

Finally, it’s my birthday today, and my big present is a super-duper chicken house and run, currently being constructed by the three boys for me. Silkie Pollyanna will go into it, along with her buddy Rickety Chick, but I think I may need to buy a couple of fancy hens to join them – maybe a frisée or another silkie. I shall be off to the market on Thursday!