Thursday, 10 September 2009

Autumn already?

Walking the dogs the other morning I detected a temporal shift. (No not a rift in the time-space continuum - you watch too much sci-fi).

Spring began for me with a subtle shift in the greens of the valley. I declare Autumn to have begun with a shift in the browns. Still subtle, Autumn is not yet full-on.

Leaves are falling in increasing numbers and begin to cover up the paths. Red jewels of the rowan trees are scattered around, too prolific for the birds to eat them all. The dew was heavy on the grass and the swallows seem to be feeding like they know they have a long journey soon.

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year but only one among many. Living here in the valley seems to allow the shifting seasons to be more present somehow. Certainly more so than our previous urban home. Now every day essential rituals include checking the weather forecast, since the outside impacts most things we do. You have to do most things anyway but it helps you decide which clothes to wear since it is such a long way to dash back to the house if the heavens open.

Sue needs a new pair of wellingtons that do not leak and my thoughts are turning towards waterproof trousers that are what the name suggests they should be. Autumn is breaking upon us but in the meantime we enjoy some very welcome sunshine.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Reggie the racer moves on and other updates

Not sure where he has gone to but our racing pigeon visitor has not been seen for a few days. I did not even get to tell him his new name. He had taken to sitting on the bathroom windowsill and blinking at you through the window. Go well my young feathered friend...

The other visitor on the bank of the lake seems to be still digging but not showing his/her face. I am not sure whether it can be a fox, since our dogs show a distinct lack of interest in the hole other than cursory head stuffing and then on to the next thing. They have just had baths and a hair trim so heads in holes is to be discouraged anyway.

The cats continue to amaze and amuse. Bramble - small ginger - loves sitting on things, particularly near the edge. We have lost teapot lids, flour jars and the odd vase when she has fallen asleep and literally dropped off, though the vase was actually because she was trying to drink the water.

She also has a novel way of leaving the house but I will tell you about that another time.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Boy racer, or girl racer?

A racing pigeon turned up exhausted on Sunday morning (30th) and just wandered into the porch seeking shelter. Given our cats and dogs, this meant a rescue and removal in a cage to a quiet spot with some food and water. Guidance from various websites suggested that they will fly off again once they have rested. Next morning on release he only got as far as the roof and has pretty much stayed there since with the occasional test flight up and down the valley. He moves well, just not very far. (I have decided he is a 'he' but I couldn't really tell just by looking at what colour socks he was wearing).

He does not seem to be hurt but is not currently showing much inclination to return home - wherever that is. I checked his leg ring but could not see a phone number printed on his wings - apparently some of them do have this. The Royal Pigeon Racing Association have a page for reporting stray pigeons but you have to have them in your possession - you know the old saying about a bird in the bush (or on the roof). I was sure he would fly off home but apparently not. Now I have his number but can't currently make contact with the owner. GB-09-K38035

He seems happy enough but let's hope that the cats and local birds of prey don't invite him for lunch.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Last cria of the year just arrived

(This is Lalana, the mum.)

Bank holiday Monday saw another wet day to go with the many we have had during the summer here in Swansea.

Finally the sun arrived in the afternoon. This was closely followed by a pair of white feet, spotted at a distance across the valley. Lalana, our oldest mum at 6 yrs, produced a gorgeous girl with long legs.

(This is the new cria at the really floppy stage.)

She weighed in at 8.75 Kg which is big in anybody's books. She struggled initially because of being born on a steep slope. As she tried to cush, she kept toppling over and kept sliding further and further down the hill. In the end I decided she needed some flat ground to get herself established so I picked her up in the sling (taking the opportunity to weigh her) and gently moved her. Mum was in tow and keeping a very close eye on me. Really don't like interfering like this but felt it was necessary in the end.

After 10 minutes she had cushed for the first time (briefly), 50 minutes to her first wobbly stand and just over an hour and a half to her first feed. I think it would all have been quicker on the flat but you just have to try to let them get on with it without interfering too much.

Last year Lalana gave us days of warning behaviour with her cushing and frequent trips to the poo pile and lots of tail lifting; this time she fooled me. I had weighed Lalana earlier in the day and checked her Sacrotuberous ligaments (they run from base of tail to wing of pelvis) which are normally like piano wires but near to giving birth relax and almost disappear. They were hardly present but the rest of her behaviour suggested it was not going to be today. Ah well, learning all the time.

Lalana's cria is doing just fine and feeding well. She is getting stronger all of the time and moves around with the herd without any trouble. They are all gorgeous at this stage but she is particularly pretty girl and her fleece looks really nice though it is obviously too early to be sure just how good it is. Nice to finish the cria season with a girl, having had two boys earlier in the year.

Now if it would just stop raining for a while...

Finally, this is a video clip of her first attempts at walking. Lots of forward momentum but she had trouble with the stopping or turning. As you can see, the rest of the herd seemed to want to check out her technique and give general encouragement.

Alpaca Open Day

Sunday was our autumn Alpaca Open Day.

We now have 15 alpacas, having started with 5 pregnant females in March 2008.

While I was talking non-stop in the stable, where the girls and their cria were safely in a pen, Sue was up at the house with lots of lovely helpers, supplying our guests with hot drinks and home made cakes (even if not from our home on this occasion). They also got a chance to get their hands on some toasty warm and soft alpaca socks.

The weather was seriously wet and we appreciated every one of the 70+ visitors who came to see us and the animals. Walks in the valley had been planned but will have to wait for another time.

Learning all the time.

New resident in the valley

I think this particular resident is probably not that new but his home is.

I discovered a while back a hole in the bank near the lake. It has gradually been growing, so my assessment of who was responsible has had to keep changing. My own dogs were the first potential culprits - usually following after the smell of a mole, they will dig down a bit. But no, the hole grew when they had not been near for ages. Rabbits usually leave little pieces of evidence around the burrow - none to be seen and the hole continued to grow in size, bigger than a rabbit would produce.

This process has been going on over a number of weeks, so it must be a weekend and evening project.

Finally I found fresh soil and some footprints - smudged by the rain but looking suspiciously like a fox. Not big enough for a badger - unless the hole continues to grow!

We will keep an eye on it to see if we can confirm just what is making the hole but apart from the fresh soil, so far we have not seen the excavator at work.