I’m not a birdwatcher. Most of them look and sound much the same to me I have to confess but I was taken this summer by the display of a pair of buzzards which suddenly appeared in the church woods adjacent to our land and which seemed to view our 20 acres as their territory.
The sheer speed with which they hurtled to earth would be enough to terrify even the most hardened pleasure rider and it was a good spectator sport sitting in a chair watching them swoop and climb over the ‘Magic Valley’ as Damaris calls it.
We found them one day sitting in the walnut tree which is not 10 metres from the house – they rarely come that close to humans.
I haven’t seen them now in a couple of weeks which was about when the hunting season began. I daresay some geriatric Rambo clad in his camouflage and armed with a double-barrelled rifle thought that they would look good in his pot. It is easy to imagine them in the ‘Rootin’, tootin’, shootin” shop (Hunting and Fishing) showing off their prizes to other likeminded individuals. Of course, the bounty bag closes abruptly as soon as any ordinary member of the public passes – it wouldn’t do for them to know.
I have to be the last person anyone would call a ‘greenie’ but these people just haven’t caught on. To them, if there are no more buzzards, they will just shoot something else and go on and on until there is nothing but they cannot conceive of that day so they just carry on.
Maybe I’m wrong and the buzzards have just taken a holiday somewhere but I have a horrible feeling that they both ended up with a nasty case of lead-poisoning.
The clocks going back an hour really make a big difference here – particularly when combined with the extreme speed of sunset. I was sat outside on our bench at 4pm watching the dogs play on the gravel drive; 30 minutes later it was pitch black.
My wife grumbles at the expense of the driveway lights. I had a dozen put up with 6 of them being double-headed. I realise that this uses a lot of electricity (although they all have saver bulbs) when you run them from sunset to 11pm but it does send out a message to hunters and other trespassers to keep off. It also goes some way towards scaring off wild animals until at least well into the night.
I’m very conscious of how isolated we are out here. Although this part of Italy is quiet on the lawbreaking front (well as quiet as anywhere is, these days), we are a fair way away from anyone else and I remember what it was like when I had my house in England broken into by a gang of junkies. It was my then girlfriend’s birthday and I copped a brick in the face breaking my nose. The dogs scare off most Italians so that helps.
As I think I put in other posts, I could happily play my saxophone here at 2am and I doubt anyone would hear me.
The dogs made a racket last night chasing some animal down the drive. We couldn’t see or be certain of what it was but my guess is that it was a porcupine. There is a hollow down in the lower orchard where one sleeps at night so it could well be him. Pascal, the dog that died, had a run-in with one. He came back to us with a spine just below his eye. Apparently when cornered, the porcupine can fire off his quills and woe-betide you if you are in range (as Pascal found out).
Yes, it’s great fun dog-hunting at 3am when all you know of their location is a distant growling and woofing. We try not to let them out that late but it’s hard to separate a ‘call of nature’ from a desire for a moonlight adventure.
I often lie in bed listening to the owls hooting, often closely-followed by some poor creature’s shriek of surprise as it is swept up by the bird’s talons. Sentimentality is to be avoided, though – the last thing we need is to be over-run by voles and mice. Let the owls, buzzards and snakes have them.