Jonathan & Denise >
Now that we don’t keep chickens on the croft, there’s a vacuum that’s being filled by wildlife.
Between the henhouse and the sea there’s an ancient stack-yard (it’s been dated back to medieaval times) for storing harvested cereals and other crops. Originally, this would have been comprised of an area of hard ground – natural rock and/or cobbles – enclosed by a stone wall. Our stack yard is roughly circular in shape, and is choked with accumulations of turf – built up perhaps a century and a half since it fell out of use, which covers the hard base by up to metre, and has choked up the gaps in the fallen stonework of the walls. It has, in our time, proved irresistible to our poultry, the chickens excavating little hollows in the dry sandy soil for dustbaths, and the geese appropriating the biggest of these hollows for building their nests.
Last year we sold all our Welsumer chickens, and since then most of our geese have also been sold – leaving just one goose and her gander (that’s Mrs & Mr MacGregor) to range wherever they wish on land and sea. Mrs MacG has not chosen the old stack yard, or indeed anywhere in Home Park (the part of the croft between the sea and the public road) to make a nest. (In fact, she doesn’t seem to want to make a nest at all, this year.) Thus are the hollows in the turf-and-rock ramparts of the old stack yard now healing with new grass.
Except, that is, one hollow, which has been taken up by a female Lesser Black-Backed Gull.
Whilst her partner patrols overhead, surfing the sea breezes, she has made her nest, laid three spotted-green eggs, and now has two spotted-grey-brown chicks, that are easily missed when they hunker down amongst the bare rocks of the rampart.
It was fortunate that I just stumbled into the gull nest when the eggs had begun to hatch : a process known as ‘pipping’. (In the nest photo, you can see the small holes being made from inside! ) The mother had presumably left the nest – when she heard me coming – in a tactic of distraction (which clearly didn’t work!).
It was un-fortunate that I just stumbled into the gull nest, because ever since, whenever I appear in Field 1, the father of the chicks calls out aggressively and dives at my head.