Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Long time no see...

Sorry all. No excuses. Busy shooting grouse, taking photos, writing articles, chopping firewood, making sloe gin, buying Christmas presents and playing with the kids. Doesn't time fly when you're having fun?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Summer Solstice…

WELL, not quite, but only a little out.

Can't believe it's that time of year already and things are so lush and green, it seems impossible that things could ever look as stark as they did just a few short months ago when the countryside was in the grip of the deep freeze.

Days of finger-numbing shooting seem a distant memory, but preparations for next season are never far away and I've been helping build rearing pens and make sure all is ship shape for THIS season's birds. Pics to come.

I must say, walking the dog early on a still summer morning is pretty special – what an incredible country we live in.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Still A'Freezin'

It was cold this morning.

Not just chilly, but cold enough for a decent ice crust on the car, and plenty cold enough to crisp up the hedgerows.

The skies were immaculate - due in part perhaps because there are no vapour trails from grounded aeroplanes?

For those keen to have a try at Sloe Gin this Autumn, now's the time to mark down the decent blackthorn bushes. All the blackthorns are in bloom now as you'll see from the photos, and it pays to make a little map of the densest concentrations on your patch - so you can then nip back after first frost and pick all you need in one easy session.

By the way, I've only just decanted the remainder of my gin from last year (that is, removed all the remaining sloes and sludge from the demijohn and decanted into bottles). If you start to get a good production line going, you'll have some of last year's SG to drink when winter comes and can stock up again ready for next year. If you see what I mean...

Although it's nice to feel the sun on my back again, I can't help missing winter just a tad. Let's face it, for many of us, it's when we do most of our shooting, beating etc. I've been out to bag a few woodies in the last couple of weeks, but the little blighters seem to nest earlier and earlier every year, and I just can't help feeling uncomfortable about shooting potentially nesting birds...

Monday, 12 April 2010

I've come out of hibernation!

Can't really make any excuses; it's just been cold, wet and miserable for so long, I couldn't bring myself to the keyboard to extol the virtues of another English winter.

But lo and behold! The sun comes out and all is right with the world once more. I've got a stack of good photos to share thanks to some nifty camerawork on some driven shoots over the winter - not to mention a tale or two to tell of snowy duck flights, bagging a Jay, hill stalking and much much more.

I will be sharing in good time - in the meantime, has anyone else noticed a large amount of ladybirds around this year? Perhaps we're in for another plague...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Back at last...

Well it's been a while - but hey, it's a busy time of year!

There have been shoots to visit, dogs to train, guns to buy, clothes to dry and handwarmers to fire up - and we've had the biggest cold snap for many years here in the UK.
For a week or more, we were more or less snowed in, which is pretty much unheard of in this part of southern UK these days.
But we have had some special shoot days, with birds towering in leaden skies and biting winds making pulling the trigger difficult with painful fingers.
Watch this space.

Monday, 19 October 2009

First Frost At Last

It seems to have been pretty late this year down south, but the first frost of the year has crisped the vegetation at last.

The sun soon warmed us all up, mind you, and it was the perfect morning to begin collecting sloes for this year's batch of Sloe Gin (traditionally you should wait until the first frost before picking these fruits of the blackthorn bush).

I do enjoy this time of year, especially the early mornings. There are some wonderful cloud formations, misty hollows and micro climates to be found.

Myxomatosis is rife amond the warrens again once more and we are finding fresh dead rabbits everywhere. The local predators are having a field day, and I have dispatched several coneys brought back to me by the dog.

After a quick tramp around, that morning cuppa tastes so much better, and my head is clearer for work.

A great way to start the day.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Safari Part II

Our first game drive was at 3.30pm to beat the heat of the day.

We clambered aboard the all-terrain Land Rovers which are open topped and one sided, with tiered seats for a great all-round view. Our tracker is Collen, from the local Shangaan tribe. He speaks little English, but doesn't miss a thing.

We encountered plenty within minutes of leaving the camp gates; hornbills, impala and a male Nyala (a type of antelope).

After about an hour of ogling at everything, Collen gave a low whistle and the jeep came to a sudden halt. There, in the baked mud of a former watering hole, pcok-marked by the huge footprints of elephant, lay a young female leopard. We had all looked straight at her and not seen a thing.

We manouvred closer as we all clamoured for cameras and binoculars. She was nervous at first, and scuttled into some low bushes nearby. But after a while, when we stopped and cut off the diesel engine, she calmed and lay quietly in full view almost 10 yards away.

Kipling couldn't do her justice.

A creature of immense elegance and grace, with markings no architect could hope to recreate. When she looked directly at me and I gazed into those pale green eyes, I was quite overcome with emotion. It literally brought a tear to my eye.

We stayed there for the best part of an hour, and she even got up and came closer, lying in the dappled evening sunlight looking for all the world like a domestic cat.

She blinked her eyes, rolled on her back and washed herself languidly for the cameras. An extraordinary creature.

We moved off and as dusk fell across the vast landscape, we found an almost stereotypically good granite outcrop in the middle of the bush.

We climbed its smooth sides to a plateau around 30 feet up, feeling the warmth of the day reflected on its ancient surface. And there, with Rory and Collen and our two game drive companions, Dennis and Christina, enjoyed a gin and tonic sundowner as the massive sky blushed and darkened above.