Regular readers of my blog may remember that back in the Spring Mrs. Pheasant reared a large brood of chicks under the hydrangea bush by the landing window.
It has been a good year for pheasant and partridge and the farmer has seen part-grown young in almost every field. This afternoon, when Tess and I went for our after-lunch walk there were nineteen young pheasants in the middle of the road. We walked slowly and carefully and they were not afraid, just walking in front of us down the lane. I took a few photographs - this is the best. Sadly, the grouse shooting season begins on the 12th of this month and by the end of October they will be shooting pheasants too - so this gang had better learn to be scared before that date - or at least to keep walking and not be tempted to fly (the guns can't shoot low, so if the pheasants stay on the ground they are safe; if only I could tell them.)
And now to my other theme for today - the subject of Ragwort. Oddly enough, I intended to write about it today and rang friend W to check the name of the moth involved and she said that Matthew Parris had written about it in The Times today - so I read his thoughts before I wrote this.
For anyone who doesn't know, Ragwort is a rather pernicious yellow weed which has done particularly well this year (what hasn't done particularly well this year in the flower/fruit world?) It is important in the life cycle of the cinnabar moth.
It is also fatal to equines. My friend W lost her two donkeys to ragwort poisoning. Equines will not eat it while it is flowering but if it dies down and is then cut in with the grass for hay then they will eat it.
Round here the grass verges are thick with it and there are clumps of it in the fields. The local Nature Reserve has lots of it and I suppose you could argue that there it is in the kind of environment where it poses no threat. Matthew Parris himself lost a llama to liver disease some years ago.
It is even possible that humans can contract liver disease from pulling up the plants and there is, according to Parris, a law saying that Landowners have a legal duty to remove it. It is obvious as one drives around the countryside that the law is not being enforced.
John Clare, the poet wrote in 1831:
Ragwort, thou humble flower with tattered leaves
I love to see thee come and scatter gold....
Thy waste of shining blossoms richly shields
The sun tanned sward in splendid hues that burn
So bright and glaring that the very light
Of rich sunshine doth to paleness turn
and seems but very shadows in thy sight.
Beautiful it might be, and important to the cinnabar moth, but as I go around the countryside and see it in fields where it might easily to incorporated into a hay crop then I do really think something has to be done about it. What do you think?