When a chick doesn’t know it’s a pheasant …

Out here in La-La land where I live, there are many, many stoopid birds. You may recall (from some of my posts last year) that these creatures, (other people less familiar with them call them ‘pheasants’), are the birds-of-little-brains who, in spite of the inescapable truth that they can actually FLY, prefer instead to play ‘chicken’ with cars as they RUN across the roads in the countryside.

They haven’t got any better this year. Which, given the whole ‘survival of the fittest’ scenario and the natural, genetic selection that Ole Maa Nature likes to fiddle around with, one might have had high hopes for, unless you happen to be an ACTUAL scientist and know (for sure) that of course these things take generations to alter and the likelihood of such a dramatic, vitally important change taking place in the course of one season is zero. Not practically zero, mind you. Actual, absolutely, absolute zero.

See, I know a thing or two – all you scientist out there thinking I’m  a couple of genomes short of a deoxyribonucleic acid molecule! I’ve heard of Absolute Zero!

What’s that you say? Hmm?

It’s a movie? Directed by Robert Lee? Starring Jeff Fahey and Erika Eleniak? (Thank goodness for IMDB!)

Well, yes, I KNOW THAT, of course! But it’s also a Science Thing too.

Oh, wait a minute… oh. OK. The actual, Sciencey thing that Absolute Zero is, is not, as I might have suggested above,  the completely impossible, no-chance option on a mathematical probability scale. It’s to do with the lowest temperature where nothing could be colder. According to Science Daily anyway. Well, you live, you learn!

Before I digressed there, ill-advisedly donning a ‘Super Scientist’ hat for a brief moment in time, I was talking about the Stoopid Birds again.

This is because we have a family of pheasants that live in the over-run garden of the abandoned house adjacent to our garden. There’s all sorts of wildlife that call Mill House home these days, including a highly endangered Barn Owl, who occasionally treats us to a display of his aerial mastery at around dusk, when he swoops low across the meadow, in hot pursuit of a small furry mammal. I am hoping one day to actually catch his flight on camera, but as yet, it is simply something to aspire to.

So, the pheasant family consists of at least one glorious male, resplendent in his beautiful plumage, along with maybe two other males who are almost as breath-taking; there are also several females in their excellent brown speckled day-wear, which is so effective at camouflaging them.

And then there’s the chicks. At one point earlier this year, we counted eight chicks. We didn’t get to see them until they were quite large birds of course as they would have been secreted away in the nest until their parents thought it safe enough to allow them to accompany them on their daily foraging sojourns.

Now, they have almost all gone – flown the nest, moved on to different feeding grounds or whatever it is that pheasants do.

Except for this one. She’s a real sweetie. Not easily scared by humans or vehicles. We first saw her strutting round one of the front lawns a few weeks ago, which is where we used to see the pheasant family most days.

I was no more than three feet away whilst she posed!
I was no more than three feet away whilst she posed!

Then, another day when I was out with my camera, I spotted her on the driveway and stalked her (it’s OK, you’re allowed to stalk a feathered bird!) down the drive and into the meadow. She allowed me to get really close to her – at one point I was less than three feet away. She showed no fear and accepted my presence as she did the daffodils, the grass and the rooks flying around in the skies.

Then, a few days later she was back in the driveway. This time it was early in the morning, just as the Neanderthol was leaving for college.

It's a long road to freedom...
It’s a long road to freedom…

I gesticulated wildly from my study to try to warn him of the bird’s presence, but he failed to notice and rounded the corner where the horse chestnut tree is just getting dressed for summer at a fair old lick. Let’s just say, he’s pretty good on the emergency stops now! Moreover, the bird stood her ground, right in the centre of the driveway.

‘Move? Me? Are you SURE? Perhaps it is you who should move as I was here first!’ was the look that she gave my son, sitting behind the wheel of a large car. My FAB hubby jumped out and waved his arms around, in a remarkably similar fashion to the gesticulations that I was making, but this had very little effect upon the plucky chick. He had to practically push her out of the way in order that they could get going on their journey. She’s got some chutzpah for sure!

But the best encounter by far came a couple of days ago when I had been out photographing the arrival of spring in the garden. I’d been out for about an hour at this point and was ready to head in to download my photos and find some artistic use for them. I rounded the same tree and there sat the chick, pecking nonchalantly at the gravel and scrub in the driveway, right in front of me.

I stopped in my tracks and raised my trusty camera.

‘Click!’ it said, rather too loudly I thought.

I expected her to be startled and prepared for her hasty departure, but she turned her head and noticed my presence then calmly went back to her search for some tasty morsel among the weeds and dirt.

I cleared my throat a little but this didn’t distract her from her purpose.

I realised she was probably hungry and so dashed inside to get a handful of wild bird seed that we have several drums of in the garage. (Why do you think we are so popular with the local bird population? Because we’re nice people? Uh-huh! Those little gannets know which side their bread is buttered on I can tell you!).

Armed with the seed, I took up a perch around six feet away from the chick, sitting on the low lawn-edging stones so I could get level with her perspective (photographer’s rule #5 I think!). It wasn’t easy and I wasn’t very comfortable, so I knew I was doing this right. Then I tossed a small handful of seeds in her direction.

Sitting nest to the chick, she showed me her best side...
Sitting next to the chick, she showed me her best side…

And she bought it!

She came really close to me and looked up at me with that inevitable question in her eyes…

‘Thanks! Are you my mommy?’

Looks like I just got adopted.

Thanks for reading!

P.S. I notice that this is my 99th post – so the next one will be a momentous landmark for me. Look out for it tomorrow of the day after – I’ve a feeling it will be dedicated to my late mother-in-law who we’ll be thinking about later this week, on the anniversary of her passing. It seems a fitting subject for such a milestone. 


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