Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Scenes from Prawle Fair 2008

Every late May Bank holiday weekend, a village fair is held on the green here in East Prawle, with funds raised going to the upkeep and maintenance of the Community Hall.

It is a fun, traditional country fair, and here are some pictures (none great art, I know) from the fair held last Sunday, 25th May.

Hogwash provided traditional music throughout the afternoon.

The BBQ did a roaring trade.

Old and young alike enjoyed boat rides around the village.

Finding a bargain on the toy stall.

The traditional swingboats are always a favourite.

Enjoying the sunshine amongst the frivolity!

A pint on a stick!

Monday, 26 May 2008

Another week, and a lot less fluffy

Now the wings and tail feathers are well developed (the chicks can now fly a little), and the fluff on the body and head is giving way to the beginning of feathers.

The beak is growing, and the chick is about twice the size it was when it hatched.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Fluffy one week on

I can't be sure this is the same chick I photographed last week, but all the Leghorn chicks look virtually identical.

As predicted, the feathers on the wings are much more developed, and tail feathers have started to show, although they are difficult to make out in this shot.

In another week, the chicks will be slightly less "cute", as they start to loose their body down, and feathers start to show on the back.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Whatever happened to Lola?

Back on 27th April, I said that I wasn't hopeful for the clutch of eggs being sat on by one of our West of England geese, Lola.

At that stage she had been on the for 31 days. The normal incubation period for geese is 28 to 31 days, and there was no sign of anything happening, although it was difficult to be certain, as she was very defensive of her nest.

I left her on them for another 4 days, but when there was still no sign of any goslings, I armed myself with a dustbin lid, and removed the eggs from the nest. Although Lola was getting off the nest for short periods to eat and drink, I did not want her sitting indefinitely. Besides, assuming the eggs were infertile, they were likely to start going off!.

Meanwhile, I had taken the eggs laid by our other West of England, Amelia, and had six of them in our small incubator. Amelia continued to lay, and I put her later eggs into a nest I had made in their stall, in the hope that she might sit. No such luck. As soon as I had removed Lola's eggs, Lola moved herself onto this new nest, and sat there prepared to wait another 4 weeks. She really did want goslings!

We had timed the incubator for a hatch one week after our return from the Scilly Isles. Candling before we left had been inconclusive, but after our return it was clear that these eggs too were infertile. It would appear that Amos, our gander, was not performing, and the likelihood was that Lola's new clutch would also come to nothing.

So, yesterday I phoned around a few breeders and suppliers I know, and by good fortune found that one was at market, and was expected back at around 3 pm, probably with some goslings. We arrived there at 2 minutes past 3, just as he had unpacked a number of goslings and ducklings, including 6 day old goslings. We bought all 6, and rushed them home, where we put them in with the chicks that had hatched out over the weekend.

Then, once it had started to get dark, and the birds were settling down for night, we took the goslings up to the goose stall, and I gently placed them into Lola's nest. Mo & I watched anxiously, in case the geese attacked the youngsters as unwelcome intruders, but all 3 examined them with incredible gentleness.

I removed the eggs from the nest and put them in the incubator (I'll candle them this weekend), and left them to it.

And when I went out to check on the birds this afternoon, there was Lola, out behind her stall, carefully watching over her babies, and feeling very pleased with herself for at last managing to hatch them out! ( I don't think I'll tell her the truth, she probably wouldn't believe me).

Early Purple Orchid - A Regular Visitor

We look forward every year to the return for the summer of the swifts, swallows and martins, the latter of which have a number of nests under the soffits around Welle House.

But here is a here is another harbinger of summer, who never really goes away.

During our first spring here in East Prawle, when cutting the grass for our self catering accommodation, I came across an orchid growing near to the northern wall. I carefully cut around it, and it stayed with us for about 10 weeks.

The following year, we had forgotten all about it until, in mid-April, there it was again, in exactly the same spot (unsurprisingly). And again last year. So that this year, along with the return of the birds from North Africa, we eagerly awaited the reappearance of this beautiful flower, and it did not disappoint.

There is a bank on the lane that approaches Stokenham, about 4 miles from here, that has a profusion of these, but this one shows no sign of spreading. Nonetheless, we feel privileged to have this one.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

A surprise newcomer.

Mo is a keen gardener, and when it comes to rabbits in the veggie patch, she takes the same view as Beatrix Potter's Mr McGregor - put them in a pie!

But we couldn't do that to this little chap. I was moving a pallet we use as a gate, so I could get through to cut the lawn for the self-catering accommodation, when there was a flash of white.

I followed it onto the guest patio, and there was a tiny albino rabbit, trying to hide in a corner. He seems to have been driven out by his more conventionally coloured family. There is no way he would survive in the wild - if our cat didn't find him, the fox that patrols our garden every night certainly would.

We have an old rabbit hutch that we originally bought for broody hens, so I dusted it off, bought some hay and rabbit treats (dried artichoke leaves) and put him in there with a saucer of water.

I would love to keep him, but Mo doesn't (worried about the veggie patch), so feelers are being put out to local families with small children.

Monday, 12 May 2008

And here's Fluffy!

One day old, and straight off a chocolate box!

If you look at the photo closely, you can just make out the beginning of feathers on the end of the wing.

In a week's time, that feathering will be much more pronounced, and tail feathers (and possibly back feathers) will also have started.

BTW, the eggs and birds in this little series have switched between dark and light. I put two types of egg in the incubator, Leghorn (which lay pure white eggs, and in the variety I have are pure white feathered) and Marans (which lay dark brown eggs, and will end up black and white mottled - or "cuckoo").

Out at last!

After hours and hours of struggle, the tiny chick at last manages to push away the top of the shell, and with a twist of its body, emerges to start it's like.

It is still wet at this stage, and very exhausted. I leave it in the incubator until it is dry and fluffy, before transferring it to a brooder pen under a heat lamp.

It carries sufficient reserves from the yolk within the body to sustain it for 24 hours or more, so there is no need for food or water within the incubator, but the brooder has a feeder full of chick crumbs, and a drinker kept full of fressh clean water.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Ready to hatch

Most of the work has been done now.

The top of the shell has been separated. One more push, and the chick will hatch.

Half way to hatching

Here, the chick has been working slowly around the shell, and is about an hour away from removing the top section, enabling it to extricate itself.

It can take 24 hours or more from the first pip to hatching, and the chick will emerge wet and exhausted.

Friday, 9 May 2008

First pip.

This photo shows one of the eggs in the incubator which has just started the hatching process.

The build up of CO2 in the egg has caused the chick inside to jerk its head involuntarily.

At this stage, the beak has a small hard protuberance, known as an egg tooth, on the tip, which initially breaks into the air sac in the round end of the egg, and later to start breaking the shell. This is known as "pipping".

The chick develops in the egg curled up, and as the hatching process develops, it slowly unwinds, and makes a series of "pips", eventually breaking away the blunt end completely (a bit like a soft boiled egg!), enabling the chick to hatch.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

More Egg Candling

Here's another photo of a candled egg, taken last night.

Where the last photo showed a system of veins, with the heart showing as a dark spot, here the whole top end of the egg is dark, where it is occupied by the now nearly fully developed chick.

Over the next few days, it will continue to develop, and as it does, there will be a gradual build up of CO2 inside the egg.

When this reaches a certain level, it will cause an involuntary jerk from the chick's head, which in turn will cause the beak to make a small hole in the shell, starting the hatching process.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

The adventures of my son and the Salcombe 'C' Crew at the 2008 World Pilot Gig Championships on the Isles of Scilly