Sunday 26 April 2009

Lambs on the rocks

Surely no lambing field is complete without a suitable highpoint specifically for the purpose of playing "King of the Castle!"
The girls, Lunde and Kate find a rock which seems suitable for the purpose...
Boys, Wiggy and Braeface, soon stamp their claim! I love Wiggy's beautiful chocolate brown fleece; he's a very smart little chap. Braeface has a super fine and crimpy grey fleece.

Lunde demonstrates the similarities between Shetlands and mountain goats. Kate and Braeface are more interested in what Chris is up to.
Well done Braeface, you're the king now...But you've got company!

The lambs are doing a lot of exploring now and getting themselves into mischeif. There were two outside the field this morning and we have had to go round plugging up holes with anything that comes to hand. Here is Chris with Kate after he had removed burs from her head and fleece!

Saturday 25 April 2009

First catch your beaver...

I've just returned from spending a week at Telemark University in Norway where I have been assisting with their fieldwork in order to learn about beavers and gain experience of working with these oversized rodents. My boss, and project manager, Simon and I had a challenging experience while there, working daft hours and pushing ourselves both mentally and physically. I think it's fair to say though that we are both pretty tough and fit, so despite our days being 9am - 4am we came through it all smiling: afterall we did get to sleep for 5 hours in every 24!

Our first night there was the only oportunity we had to "let our hair down" as we joined local hunters, students, professors and wildlife rangers whose common interest was the beaver even if the reason for this fascination differed somewhat. I joined a beaver hunt and after the success of thism dinner was... yes you guessed it... beaver tacos! Not bad eating at all!

The rest of our time there we were keeping our beavers very much alive so that they could be studied. The students were researching (broadly) interactions between families of beavers, hormone levels and scent marking behaviour. To do this the animals needed to be fitted with microchips, radio and/or GPS tags, data loggers and ear tags, as well as have samples taken.

Catching beavers isn't easy. They are large muscular animals and superb swimmers. They know their habitat, and the best escape routes, very well and learn how to outwit people over time. The main method of catching beavers in Norway is with the use of power boats and nets: the trapping team use spotlights to find a beaver; when found the driver goes full throttle towards it and attempts to herd it toward shore if it swims. The trapper stands at the front of the boat with a large net and at the opportune moment leaps off to catch the animal... sound easy?

What made it harder was the conditions in which we were working. Sections of the river were still frozen and snow still thick on the ground in many places. It was freezing at night and I wore so many clothes that I could hardly bend. I did however manage to trap a beaver myself :o)

Samples were taken quickly and efficiently but with great care. If we injured or stressed the animals then it would render the information that we were collecting, both at the time and in the future, useless. The beavers were handled in sacs so that they were in the dark and felt secure but couldn't damage us!

The best part of course was releasing the beaver back into the wild, comfortable in the knowledge that this research team has been trapping some individuals regularly for 10 years. These animals have left perfectly normal beaver lives building lodges, raising families and defending a territory. It puts my mind a little more at ease since I'll regularly have to trap our beavers in Knapdale. How many we catch by this method remains to be seen!

New Flock Members

I managed to get a shot of almost the whole colourful little gang! From the top: Lunde, Ruby's son (Tayvallich perhaps...), Bazil, big twinnie, Wiggy, Braeface, mummy's boy and Kate. Clearly we have some more names to think of!

The only one missing is "little twinnie" so here he is with his brother (he's the one on the right).
There are rather too many boys for my liking but I am delighted with the lambs. They are fit healthy and the colours and spots are amazing.

Lamb Confusion!

Sorry folks but I've had a mix up! The little stunner in the previous post is Ruby's tup lamb, but still a very handsome HST :o) Chris sent the photos to me without labelling them and made the wrong assumption! I'm home now and have sorted it!

This is my HST ewe lamb out of Sheilhope Gruna! She's gorgeous, very tall and leggy compared to the other lambs and with a tight crimpy fleece. She's a funny colour though: there seem to be white hairs interspersed in with the brown giving her a slightly frosted look.

I've called her Lunde after the Norwegian village I was staying in when she was born.

Monday 20 April 2009

My little HST

Very quickly,since I'm in Norway and in a hurry... I missed the birth of this little beauty, but Chris sent me a photo. She's a keeper :o)

Thursday 16 April 2009

The Twins

To cheer me up Geherda produced these two little boys yesterady afternoon. Chris and I shut them into the little field shelter overnight and Chris slept in the lamb paddock to keep them all safe. Goodness knows how he will cope in the next few days as I have to go to Norway for work. I never thought that I'd be so gutted to have an expenses paid trip abroad!

Opinions on colour and markings anyone? Fawn(?) katmoget, yuglet, bersugget, sokket!?

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Life - for a limited time only.

I'm so sad today. Robina's gorgeous little spotted lamb who was born yesterday is no more. Despite the fact that Chris and I have been checking the girls every four hours day and night, she must have been taken by a predator some time in the small hours of the morning. We suspect a fox but it could have been a badger, pine martin or even an eagle. There is no body, it is as though she vanished into thin air. Absolutely heartbroken and poor Robina just wanders around the field bleating for her lost lamb. I know that lambing outdoors is healthier but at this moment I do miss the security of locking the newbies in a building over night. I don't blame the predator, whatever it was, but I've been doing my best to look after them and now I feel awful. I suppose it was just one of those things. Chris will be sitting off tonight to keep watch over them all.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Did someone order spots?

Robina obviously took me seriously when I told the girls to have spotty lambs! Just look at this little lady! She was boinging about like Zebidee minutes after birth. I'm really thrilled :)

Sunday 12 April 2009

Easter Lambs!

Lambs at last! I'm so proud of these little cuties. After a couple of weeks of watching the girls getting fatter and fatter and milk bags stretching until some were looking ready to burst, the first lambs born to the Smali Flock have arrived.

The funny thing is that they were actually a surprise because when I checked and fed the girls at 7am, nothing was happening. Then when I returned at lunchtime I Gruna had her little ewe lamb dried off and feeding, while Gula was just cleaning off her little tup.

No one else has done anything yet, but I'm writing this and then heading back there.

Ewe lamb Smali Kate is a black krunet, or perhaps smirslet (please advise!). Or at least I thought that she was black, but looking more closely she could turn out shaela or another shade of grey. She looks silvery next to the skin. I'll have to wait and see! Gruna is a moorit and comes from a long line of moorit sheep so the colour and pattern are all dad!

Tup lamb Smali Bazil is a mooit/fawn (have to wait and see?!) bersugget katmoget. He's a socking lamb and a real explorer too. He was leaping around just a couple of hours after birth and mum Gula has to keep close tabs on him already.

Our friends Baz and Kate had just arrived to stay for the weekend when these two were born and Kate is also my little sister's name so Chris suggested that we christened them Bazil and Kate and it has stuck. So much for everyone beginning with A this year!

Saturday 11 April 2009

Lambs at last!

I'm so proud of these little cuties. Gula has a katmoget tup and Gruna a black krunet gimmer. This is from my phone. Proper post coming soon!