Tuesday, 1 February 2011

He's a pheasant plucker's son

When Tim was just a lad, his uncle John, who was a vicar in Swaffham, Norfolk, used pass on a brace of pheasants every Christmas. Tim's mother used to sit in the bath (fully dressed) to pluck the pheasants, and her sons used to help. He mentioned this while we were observing two groups of three handsome pheasants (fasianus colchicus) faisan de colchide  patrolling our meadow. Three males, one with whitish patches on his wings, and three females were highly visible, looking as exotic as their origin in south-east asia would imply. Pheasants were introduced to Europe by the Roman period and are prized as gamebirds. At the time we were watching, it was early evening in the school disco, with the girls dancing round their handbags and the boys at the side nearest the bar eyeing them up.

One morning last week Tim spotted a huddled form in the orchard, just after Bagger's first morning patrol. He went out to find the white-winged male pheasant, recently deceased, with wounds to the throat. Circumstancial evidence points to the aggressor! However that was dinner sorted out. The pheasant spent a night hanging in the cave, ready for plucking. None of our pheasants have rings, so we can't tell whether they belong to someone, unlike the partridges.

When Tim plucked the bird, he tried to pull too many feathers at once and tore the skin, so he skinned it completely and found a shotgun pellet in a recent small wound on its lower neck. From its location in the verger and the trail of feathers indicating that it had been dragged, he thinks that it must have been shot and wounded, and flew into the verger to meet its nemesis in the form of our black tom cat.

Now there is only one male pheasant in the meadow, and six females. He is going crazy with frustration, having no rivals, and he is chasing the girls all over the place, but they are still not interested in him yet. He is large and handsome in a florid sort of way (captain of the first 15) with bushy eyebrows and a wide white neck ring. The girls come in shades of grey-brown or rusty-brown, with pointy tails and without the eyebrows. At the moment they run away from him, but not so fast that he will give up entirely.

We haven't got any recent photos of pheasants.... especially the current ones... but here is a picture from Tim's brother's flickr site. His website can be found here.... Nickpix.co.uk - Photography by Nick Ford
Pheasants fighting... these have the white wing coverts. [This picture appeared on BBC's Autumnwatch]


Niall & Antoinette said...

Good to meet you at Susan & Simon's. Enjoy the pheasant. Our black cat Shadow hasn't brought in anything except mice; which he eats under the stairs. When we lived in Suffolk he used to bring in bunnies. Tinka, our tabby kitten lives in hope: she chases the cock pheasant who strolls up and down our drive.

Jean said...

We have pheasants that visit our garden in Derbyshire. They live in a nearby wood and wander in to pick up seeds that fall from the bird-feeders.
The highest head-count was 15 all at once, including something called a melanistic pheasant.
I have no idea if someone has their beady eye on them for dinner but they are a nuisance - have made a mess of our back lawn under the tree where the seeds are. Last summer we managed to keep them out using netting to block their path. But then on the other hand I feel strangely guilty if we deny them of their titbits - maybe they rely on us and the other gardens - but I would hate to be feeding them up just so as someone else can enjoy a good dinner.

Tim said...

I presume the pheasant ignores the kitten, or are both getting good exercise?
Your melanistic one was a dark blue-black bird I presume... It is unlikely that they are wild birds... is there an estate that is nearby? The one that Bagger finished off had been feeding on corn [either from a feeder or a baited area. In hunt areas it is quite common for a rearing colony of young birds to be regularly fed in the colony and then at the same site after the cages have been removed.... they are then 'driven' towards the guns.

I don't think that keeping them away from the feeders in your garden will adversely affect their chance of survival!!

GaynorB said...

I've just viewed the photographs on Nickpix. They are just stunning!

Tim said...

Yep... he's a good photographer... has the patience and the time [and some exceedingly good equipment!!]