Uphilldowndale

Watching nature take its course, from the top of a hill in northern England


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The Berry Report

I was concerned in the heat of the summer that there would be a shortage of berries for the birds this winter, great swathes of the best blackberry banks had withered and died,

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The winberries, had the very life blood sucked out of them by a young oak.

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And of course my beloved pink rowan, had failed to flower, oh how I will miss it this winter, the birds will probably be more adaptive about it than me.

But things have rallied, acorns are abundant, I thought I’d be seeing the jays with their stitching flight, working across the field to their favourite oaks, but I’ve not seen one, I think they have found one tree and scoffed themselves silly, until they are unable to move

The red rowans are heaving with berries, well they were, the chickens have made inroads into them, further than you’d expect of a chicken.

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They seemed to be having training seminars on how to get to the best position,

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I wouldn’t mind but I’d put the wire cloches there to stop them digging up my plants

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The same flourish can not be said of the grass. Farmers are still very short of feed for the winter.

 


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Cold Feet

Cast you minds back, to November and I’ll tell you the adventure of a bold, but not very bright bird. Primrose the chicken.

Dusk arrived early, and the role call of chickens showed we had a problem.  Primrose was missing.

We called the neighbours, searched their gardens, scoured the lane by touch light, looked in the shrubs and bushes,  all to no avail.  Eventually we had to conclude she might have been picked off by a fox, who, made bold by hunger, made twilight strike, or she had gone broody and gone off somewhere to make a nest.  We called off the search.

It was bonfire night, rockets streaked across the night sky scattering glittering stars in their wake,  Spud the dog shifted uneasily in his bed.  Eventually all fell quiet, and then the rain came by the bucketful pounding on the roof in the small hours.

At first light, Mr Uphilldowndale went out to resume the search, to be honest he was expecting to find a drift of feathers somewhere nearby.

He couldn’t find anything. However, he could hear something.  Cluuuuccckaaaa, Chahhhaaa, Cluck! But where was it coming from?

As befits the start of a pantomime ‘It’s behind you!’ he turned on his heels to find…

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Can you see in the bulrushes, in the middle of the field pond? Oh you silly bird.

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She’d been standing, up to he knees (do chickens have knees?) in the water, all night.

Mr Uphilldowndale gallantly went in , braving chilly waters and slippery pond liner to get her*.  If you’d like to see how he got on, pop over to the video.

We took her into the kitchen to warm up. She can’t have had much sleep she kept nodding off in Mr Uphilldowndales arms.

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we don’t know why she was there, she will flap and fly a little, especially if startled.  She obviously didn’t have sufficient ‘runway’ to make her way back again.

* I think I’d have built a bridge, I’ve never been fond of cold water.


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Lock Down

Our chickens continue their enforced confinement , due to the risk of them contracting Avian Flu from migrating birds, they have to stay in their run.

They’ve adapted pretty well to this change of circumstances, I’ve tried to give them things to entertain, as well as replace the amount of fresh grass  and vegetation they normally graze.  And  I’ll confess, that without thinking about it, that for a few days, I was taking them an armful of windfall apples each day, which they loved (we’ve had a prolific year for apples).

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That was, until it occurred to me, that the migrating birds I was trying to keep away from the chickens had probably been grazing on these apples. So much for bio security!

I hasten to add that these apples are very much more munched  than back at the start of the lock down in mid December , when they were whole apples with unbroken skin

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The Problem Solved

I’m always curious to peep into a box of mystery items, I came across this on my travels this week.

A book, published in 1900. The Problem Solved, a practical treatise on artificial incubation and chicken rearing. What a title.

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A quick scoot around the Internet shows me that that the title reprinted many times, and translated into French. According to the box, this particular copy was found in a empty farm house that was about to be demolished to make way for a quarry.

Hearson’s Patent Champion Incubator or not, Rocky our cockerel, will be pleased to note that he can’t be cut out of the process of rearing chick.  He has been growing new feather of late, just to let the girls know he is in peak form.

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I know I’ve blogged about new feathers before, but it’s a process that never fails to interest me. The way the quill grows first, the tip breaks off and the new feather emerges like a fine paint brush

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Here he’s giving them a bit of a ruffle.  Clever isn’t it?

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The Easter Bunny is Dead

Please don’t tell the children. When Mr Uphilldowndale opened the kitchen door yesterday morning, Jammy  the kitten-cat shot past with a baby rabbit in his mouth, he shot through the hall and jumped up on to the widow ledge where he hissed loudly and defensively over his catch. Sadly it was a very dead rabbit; not the sort of Easter gift we were hoping for.

 

Today the sun has shone, a beautiful spring day, there has been a frog fest going on up at the pond, Spud the dog found it very exciting

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Which wasn’t very helpful to me, trying to take frog photos.

I had to make do with them swimming below the surface.

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The bees were a bit more ‘up front’

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The chickens were a little too keen on eating my beautiful spring flowers

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However, Roxanne the little black hen has surprised us all this week by laying three eggs. The first since she and Rocky moved in last September. Excellent.

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Good Friday

Spud the dog thinks it is a very good Friday as he is home from kennels, he’s been simply dizzy with delight. He is now exhausted and crashed out on the sofa, snoring loudly.

 

We came home from York yesterday evening, too late to collect Spud, but an easy journey home, for the eve of a bank holiday.

 

It has been glorious here today. After a cold and frosty start

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But the sun and blue skies melted it all away. The spring flowers like the birds are just singing.

 

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I’m not sure next door’s cockerel is too chuffed at the return of Spud, I think he’d been making a move on our chickens in his absence. Spud pointed him off in the right direction, again

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Have another flower or two, there are plenty to go round.

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Wind Egg

Or maybe, storm egg would be a better title, wind eggs we’ve covered before.

Who knows,  if it was  the 80mph winds we had here last night; but something upset one of the chickens.

 

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Poor girl.

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I suppose I’m going to have to get used to thinking, ‘I’ll tell Mum about that’ and then feeling the stark realisation that I can’t, tell her anything anymore.

 

In the distracted, absent minded way of the recently bereaved, today I tried to put chocolate sauce on my fried egg, instead of brown sauce. Sigh.

 

Here, is how a shell is formed, and here, how the egg develops


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Our Not So Feathered Friend

Our Daisy Belle  chicken has been in moult; the lass is clogging on a bit in years, here she is in her youth in 2007

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She can’t mange such a resplendent plumage these days. But she is working on this seasons feathers right now.

Chickens stop laying when they moult and general act ‘out of sorts’ not quite hanging out with the rest of the flock, first in the hen house at night, last out in a morning, having a bad feather day I suppose. They moult once a year, they don’t loose all the feathers at once (I’m not even sure how often some feathers are replaced, not every year I think).

Here she is with her new feathers emerging.  Bless.

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The quill grows first, and then the feather emerges from the tip of the quill,

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it looks like she’s covered in little paint brushes.

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Reader Charles is concerned for Spuds  the dogs welfare, as he has been absent of late. I can report he is fine, muddy and wet, but that’s Springers for you… He’ll be along soon.


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Not Spud on Sunday

Spud the dog would like to apologise for his lack of appearance this evening. This was due in part to the pleasure of  my friend Joss ringing up for a nice long natter (we are rarely ladies who lunch, a phone call has to suffice) … suddenly it’s 10pm and not a post written. Ahh well.

I think instead we’ll report the status of the daisy-belle chicken (Spud has an appointment at the dog groomers this week, he promises to ‘make an entrance’  and ‘strike a pose’ next Sunday.)

The daisy-belle you might remember went broody some weeks ago; it is still resolutely sitting in the old washing up bowl in the barn in a sort of broody stupor come semi hibernation sort of mode. The blue-belle actually sits on top of the daisy-belle to lay her egg as it refuses to budge out of the favoured laying place. All we end up with is an egg broken under the weight of two chickens.

The swallows that were nesting in the barn have fledged, this year five chicks, with no Darcy or Dandy to decimate. The swallow chicks are roosting on a roof timber directly above the broody  daisy-bell. They do exactly what the young of most species do… they poo indiscriminately. All over the daisy-belle. She flinches not. She is a strange old bird.

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