Monday, 8 August 2011

Henri and his progeny

This morning I woke to 3 male juvenile pheasants trying to break into my truck. There were 2 in the truck bed, standing on 6 sheets of 3/8" plywood and another on top of the cab flapping his little wings and stomping his feet. Now the girls, they just drop in for the keys. The boys are a little more adventurous.

Two years ago a male pheasant began to hang out in our yard. We have a little more than an acre just outside a lovely city. He was gorgeous, long tailed and technicoloured and flaunted his brilliance by strutting his stuff on top of our bark mulch pile. He would mount this pile hopefully every morning around sunup and crow about his maleness and availability. Sun comes up mighty early and a male pheasant uses a sound like a 20 foot rusty gate swinging open to attract a mate. Did nothing for me. Sadly no mate appeared and Henri, the original Urban Pheasant was destined to be a bachelor, or so we thought.

We were entertained daily by Henri over the summer and into the fall, but he went off wherever (Cuba?) over the winter and we were most surprised to see him again in the garden this spring. Yah! Much more crowing on the mulch pile (more like a compost pile by now) and trips to the local feed store for corn ensued. We had not seen any other pheasants around, ever, and were VERY surprised to eventually see Henri in the garden showing his 3 new wives around the corn pile. He had obviously bargained his corn for a harem. We were thrilled and awaited the arrival of a flock.

The flock appeared! 14 little chicks and their watchful mom arrived soon enough to check out the corn. Our joy was much dampened when my DH reported a pile of pheasant feathers on the highway behind our house. Henri had at least been able to pass on his lineage and corn pile before going on to a just reward somewhere. Is there a pheasant heaven? What's it like?

So now we host a flock. They first just scurried through the grass with mom, but after a few weeks she went the way of all mom's and left the little beasts to forage on their own. Our grass on one side is quite long and doesn't get mowed, and this is the side with the corn pile (4 cups a day, and no more you free loaders!). So as you look out the kitchen window you would see the grass ripple in little zig zaggy lines and little skinny heads would pop up to check for danger. It looked so much like scenes from Jurassic Park that we have taken to calling them 'the velociraptors'. Over the summer they have grown to the size of plump chickens and visit us through the grass several times a day. They also have taken to eating raspberries from my patch and it's hilarious to see them bouncing up and down to grab fruit while the jays dive bomb from above. They do earn their keep though. The way to their fav foods lies through my garden, and I haven't seen a slug or bug since they arrived. Yah!.

So now they've gotten older and bolder. You can see the males getting the start of their tails and practising their aggressive dances. They've tried a takedown on the truck. This is going to be interesting. We already have a set of nesting ducks in their 3rd. year of residence. The groundhog has great grand-groundhogs living under the tree out front. Two chipmunks may be living in the back drainpipe. Don't bring up the deer. He's big and he frightens me. We never mention the raccoons. That would be bad luck I fear.

Now if they could all just convince the deer to leave my strawberries and hostas alone.

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