Friday, 31 October 2008

Hello Barney!

Today was a very long and tiring day. Which after yesterday, (more about that over the weekend), means that I'm now knackered and ready for an evening in the pub with a pint of Black Sheep ale :o)

However, I couldn't possibly go out before sharing these photos and video of today. This morning I drove up to Lenice Bell's farm just over the border into Scotland and picked up Barney, who will be covering my girls, and a new little moorit ewe named Todhill Russet.

Barney, or Todhill Immortal Memory to give his proper title, is a rather grand chap. As a 7 shear he knows his job rather well and you could say that he was pleased to meet the girls. Surprisingly they gathered round him like a group of girls around their favourite pop star! Wagging their tails and skipping about; little tarts!

Barney is a grey bersugget yuglet sokket and has a divine fine crimpy fleece. His father was the well known Greenholm Holly. He is an old fashioned type ram which is what I wanted to cover my flock. I'd like a bit more length to some of their fleeces and I of course wanted more patterned genes! Lenice has just sent off fleece sample so I should have both Russet and Barney's micron counts soon.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Owls on high

OK Whisper, I give in. You're clearly fine and need a walk!
Whisp was driving Chris, Fox and I crazy in the house and, since her leg was only suffering an infected puncture wound and nothing affecting muscles or bone I decided to let her have a gentle trip out to ease her cabin fever. The swelling has gone now and she hasn't shown any pain for days.

I had to take a trip up to the North Pennines in order to advise a landowner on habitat management for Water Voles and help him with his Agri Environment Scheme application. Farmers are given subsidies through these schemes based on managing their land in a wildlife friendly way.

Whisper and Fox enjoyed the ride as I climbed the steep zig zagging road up into the high moorland. At its highest point this road reaches 1903 feet above sea level. There is a fabulous view from the top. Today was so wonderfully clear that you could see right the way to the sea. I live down at the bottom somewhere towards those mountains in the distance.

While I talked with the farmer, Fox and Whisper had a great time exploring the streams and doing some vole hunting of their own!

Don't worry, they only sniff and never try to grab! They behaved very nicely. See? Butter wouldn't melt!

My poor fingers and toes were about to drop off by the time Mr Dickinson was happy that he had all of the information he needed. Very nice chap, but it is rather chilly standing about in a wet frosty meadow for two hours! I didn't let Whisper run about for that long by the way; didn't want her getting cold too!

Just as I was about to get in the car and head for home, I saw out of the corner of my eye, the familiar fluttering flight of a large pale coloured bird. Barn owls are unusual this high up in the hills, but funnily enough I had seen the barn down the path earlier in the day and promised myself that I would check it out sometime soon.

I couldn't possibly leave now and settled, leaning on a drystone wall, watching as it hunted the rushy tussocks. I ought to offer a prize to the person who can spot the owl on this photo. I didn't have my decent camera with me!

The owl beat its bouncing butterfly patrol up and down the field, quartering systematically. At periodic intervals it would suddenly fold its wings, twist, and plunge down into the yellowing grass. Almost always the owl sprang back up into the air immediately when he missed his target, so when he remained grounded for more than a heartbeat, I guessed that he had succeeded. He appeared from the grass and flew directly up to the broad branch of a Scots Pine where the unfortunate vole became dinner, head first, for a very fortunate owl.

Eventually the owl drifted further and further away and at last I allowed my poor nose to escape the bitter wind. Pausing only to admire the handsome Dales Pony stallion in the next field. He really looks the part up here in one of England's last large expanses of wilderness.

Monday, 27 October 2008

There's snow on them there hills!

It was cold today. Sunny, but very cold with interspersed hail showers. I looked over toward the mountains and saw that true signal that winter is now here: icing sugar topped peaks. You can't see them very well on this photo, so you'll just have to take my word for it!

The changing season has also sparked change among the wildlife. The red squirrel, who comes to the tree outside my office window, is busy stashing the nuts that we leave in secret spots to tide him over in leaner times. Of course he'll forget where he hid half of them, but other animals may benefit when they stumble across them, and some may even become our future woodlands.

On the path today I found evidence that the badgers are still very active. They don't hibernate, but will spend more time holed up in their setts during the colder months. This track is from a very large male. Luckily I managed to take a picture before Fox put his big paws over the top!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

On the edge of the rain

A funny thing happened today while walking Fox. Ahead of us was sunshine, but behind us was rain. It was rather surreal as I could put my hand out in front of me and it would stay dry, but if I turned round it got wet!

It is so beautiful when the sun shines at the moment. The trees are turning every shade from gold through copper to scarlet. Fox is perfectly coloured for Autumn and looks great running round among the fallen leaves. Unfortunately he's also difficult to spot on the hillside among the now russet coloured bracken.

Whisper is not having such a happy time. She got a puncture wound from a bit of gorse and it is all infected and nasty. Poor little thing, and poor us having a border collie pup supposedly on bed rest!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

It's Chris!

I thought I'd better post the manga version of Chris too! Fox made it onto this one... along with Chris's eagle owl Jimmy. Chris used to be an owl keeper, but we don't have space for anything but an odd rescue case at the moment.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

It's Me!

I'm so chuffed with the manga style version of me that my sister, Kate, has drawn that I thought I'd share it with everyone. She uses a line art software called Manga Studio and then colours in using Photoshop. Kate has always wanted to be a cartoon artist and developed an interest in Japanese style comics, films and computer games (she'll probably tell me I've got that all wrong!). Since no one needs to teach her to draw she did her degree in Japanese and just started an MA in Computer Game Design. She and her friends have a website and have just launched a book of their work. Kate is known as Darth Mongoose online (don't ask!), there is a link about her on the website home page on the right hand side.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Big Old Friends!

The last few weeks have not been easy for Chris and I. His Cluster Headaches have been worse than ever so he's in pain much of the time and to make things worse his Aunt Barbara is dying of cancer. We went to visit her in Wrexham hospital which was very hard, especially since Chris is so close to his aunty, but we were very glad that we did because she is such a lovely person.

With very little more we could do for either Barbara or the rest of the family, we decided to cheer ourselves up a little by calling in on some old friends at Chester Zoo. I was a keeper there over the summers of 1999 and 2000. The first year I was a rhino keeper and the second year a giraffe keeper.

The zoo is looking fabulous and many of the animals have amazing new enclosures since I was there. One of the highlights for me was finding these two...

Manyara and Kitani were aged just 2 and 3 when I worked at the zoo. Kitani was a very stroppy youngster as she has just been weaned and Manyara was still with mum. Look at them now! They have a lovely big paddock and are looking great.