Mutually Unimpressed

Where's his tail? He's back in action, but not looking his best.

Following the total collapse of a nine foot section of march dyke over the weekend, I headed up to the farm this evening to fix it. Through the binoculars, it looked like a simple job to put the coping stones back up, but when I got close, I saw that the entire dyke had sagged into the moor. It’s not surprising, considering that that section is more than two hundred years old, but it did mean that I had to strip the whole lot out down to the foundations and build it up from scratch.

I’m not the world’s greatest dyker, but with a lovely sunset and a female hen harrier working through the rushes below me, there were plenty of worse ways to spend the evening. After an hour, I looked up to see that my favourite blackcock had landed just fifty yards away and was eyeing my progress with a critical eye. He didn’t exactly say “oo, I wouldn’t have put that stone there”, but his expression clearly revealed the fact that he was not impressed with my handywork. I returned the compliment by noting his shabby appearance and lack of tail.

Now that he has reappeared from the worst of his moult, he is as strong on the wing as he ever was, despite still having the brown feathers on his head and neck. Now in his third year, he has lost all traces of brown on his wings and back, and has earned himself a bolder white stripe across his wings than ever before, but time will tell how his tail will look. Knowing how feathers grow, it’s hardly surprising that his long tail feathers should be the last to come in, and I’m already looking forward to seeing how smart he’ll look when he starts to show off in February next year.

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