Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Footprints in the snow.

It is at times like this that the farmer really gets to know exactly what has been round his farm and where.   Of course we know roughly what animals visit us, but once there is snow on the ground then they leave tell-tale prints behind.

There has been a deer in the bottom field.   It has jumped over from the marshy field of our neighbour (this field is very neglected and occasionally deer have had their young in the long grass) and has scratched away the snow to get at the grass.   There is a rack of silage in the field and also a long trough which the farmer keeps full of sheep nuts - it has visited these too, so will have gone away with a full belly.

Rabbit tracks criss-cross the fields from hedge to hedge.   The poor rabbits will have been having a tough time lately.   In the floods of September many of their burrows were flooded and their young drowned.   Now the grass is covered with snow and living will be hard.   There is just a smattering of myxamatosis around too.   But, as with all things in Nature - it is the survival of the fittest, and the hardiest will get through this cold spell while the weak will go under and thus provide food for another of our visitors - the fox.

His tracks cross diagonally across the paddock and end up in the yard, where he has gone up on his hind legs to look in the chicken house windows.   A chicken died (of old age?) last week and the farmer put the body out for the fox.   It went by the next morning, although as there were no telltale feathers left anywhere the farmer thought it was more likely to have been taken by a badger.   Then the fox has criss crossed the yard, leaving his mark -a tell tale patch of yellow snow - here and there.   It must have driven the farm dog into a frenzy as it went up to the big shed door.   But we heard nothing.  

A hare has been across one of the fields.   I have not seen my favourite animal on the farm for a long time, so it is good to know there is one around.

And then, of course, there are that scourge of all farmers, the rats.  One rat has scavenged around the straw barn, leaving his long tail track in the snow.   We do keep a trap set permanently under the chicken hut and we catch about one rat a month in it.   But every farm has its share of rats and it will always be so - we shall never catch them all; they are far too clever for that.

Pheasant tracks are everywhere - telltale three pronged feet, there is no mistaking them.   And then there are all the garden birds who walk or hop around.   However much food I put out birds like the little wren never visit the bird feeders, they prefer to scratch about in the bottom of the hedge.   I can see them from my kitchen window and occasionally I scatter seed under the hedge for them.

Being able to sustain so many wild things in such harsh weather as we have here this week (minus 6 this morning) is one of the good aspects of farming.   And finding all these footprints in the snow is just confirmation that they are taking advantage of it.

##The latest photograph of Tess, taken at lunch time, sitting astride rabbit tracks in the bottom pasture, is there on my side bar.    

15 comments:

MorningAJ said...

Sounds like you have a menagerie! Our garden is walled, so we rarely get anything but birds or visiting cats. Though we're opposite the church yard and see fox prints and rabbits there regularly.

Rachel said...

I bet the farmer doesn't say "the poor rabbits"!

E Wix said...

Ah, Mrs. holmes on the prowl. What fun!
Gosh, it sounds chilly.

Angie said...

What a great read although I was saddened that the rabbit burrows were flooded and that the dreaded disease was around again ....I remember when the whole rabbit population was almost wiped out ... 50 odd years ago.Thanks for sharing your life.

Gerry Snape said...

well I'm sorry that it's so cold but how great to know that so many wild animals are around the farm. ....hope that you see the hare!

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

Did you go out in all that cold to look at the tracks? I'm afraid I would have stayed indoors and looked for what I could see out the window - I'm not cold hardy, at all. Thanks for the lovely review of who visits your farm.

Heather said...

What a wonderful post Pat. I remember as a child looking at all the tracks in the snow and trying to work out whose they were. I have been admiring all your photos of Tess and the latest one is beautiful - she looks adorable.

mrsnesbitt said...

Last week I had to deliver to ICI Wilton. As you know it is a vast industrial site - imagine my joy when I spotted both a hare and a pheasant in the fields. So out of place yet so beautiful.
Dx

George said...

With all of that detective work around the farm, Pat, I think the time has come for you to right a mystery novel. You seem to have a knack for the meaning of tracks and other evidence.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Edward and Apple would be so envious of your snow... and your menagerie of wild animals. They both went with us on holiday this week and one night late on a walk in the woods, a deer ran right across their path. It was most exciting for them both!!

Country Girl said...

I can almost feel the cold and see the tracks of the animals with the way you told this, Pat. Lovely.

Irene said...

It is not the fittest that survive but the lucky ones. We do have to help this myth out of the world. Lots of fit people succumb to misfortune.

Country Gal said...

I found your lovely blog via Kate at Chronicles Of A Country Girl . I am a new follower and look forward to your future posts . Have a wonderful evening ! Me mum made a lovely Shepherds pie as well lol !

The Weaver of Grass said...

Welcome to Country Gal who has joined us for the first time - and thanks to you all for visiting. Visits are especially nice on cold days when you can bloggily sit by the log burner for a chat.

Crafty Green Poet said...

I often wonder what our wild predators did before rabbits were introduced here!