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Posts Tagged ‘Normandy’

I’d been warned that it would not be an easy task as hares are animals that are easily stressed and if stressed, won’t eat. And then their surprisingly delicate digestive system packs up and they die.

It seemed logical to me to provide the leveret with the same sort of environment as it would have with its mother when feeding – open air, open skies… but it wasn’t very successful and if even a bird flew over, he would stop feeding from the syringe, freeze, and I wouldn’t be able to encourage him to start again.

Then, analysing further – channelling my inner hare – I guessed that leverets would certainly be in the open air but probably had their heads stuck under Mama Hare’s furry underparts so they could reach the milk dispensers. In which case they wouldn’t be able to see anything and even their hearing would be dulled. So I started feeding him inside one of the downstairs rooms at La Fosse – which was still under construction but unsurprisingly, your average leveret doesn’t care about half-finished plasterboarding or droopy insulation… or even a lack of the now mandatory “pops of colour”. Result: the feeding routine began to work perfectly. So perfectly that, when he graduated from syringe to bottle, he was so focussed and fast that I had to pull him off the teat momentarily so he could swallow and breathe, before he latched on again and finished the bottle.

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Letting him guzzle too quickly risked him inhaling milk which would lead to a lung infection – a really bad thing – so it was a balance between him getting the occasional controlled breath but not pausing long enough for him to lose interest. I believe that the mother will only stay with the leverets long enough to feed them before she’s off again so perhaps a leveret instinctively believes feeding time is over if the milk source is removed for more than a few seconds. He then cannot be persuaded to start again.

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The process at feeding time was to collect him from his dog crate in a piece of towelling that he’d used from day 1 so had all the right, familiar scents, carry him indoors in towel in a basket, feed him, weigh him, and return him back to his nest. This eventually took a maximum of 3-4 minutes each time so adhering to my principle of keeping him as unhandled and unaccustomed to humans as possible. I was the only one who fed him – again in an attempt to prevent him assuming all humans were a food source.

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There were a few hiccups along the way – although we put additional wire mesh around the dog crate so that, when tiny, he couldn’t nip out through the wire, when he was about 3 weeks old, one night he tried climbing the wire and pushing through the bars. He got stuck. When I went out to him the following morning, he was just hanging, head through the bars, eyes closed. Aaaagh. I forced the bars apart, popped his head back through and held him while he woke up. He’d rubbed the fur off his hind legs – scrabbling with them to get through and then, when that didn’t work, to get free but he took his bottle with great enthusiasm and appeared not to be any the worse for his experience. The chicken wire was extended up the crate during his breakfast. On another occasion he managed to slip underneath the bottom of the tray and out into the undergrowth but fortunately Patrick was on hand to capture him and pop him back. Gaps were plugged immediately.

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He continued to grow and then it was time to wean him off milk and onto grasses and other herbage. He was not amused.

Part III to follow.

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9 February, 2010

It’s got colder since the weekend and frog activity has diminished. In an hour or two of sun this afternoon, I saw just two, one swimming to the side and another perched on a sack of barley straw that we put in last year to try and keep the water clear.

However, when I’d climbed back up the hill and had stopped to lean on the gate and give the sheep a visual once over, a buzzard glided down onto one of the apple trees half way between me and the pond and then, as I kept still, it swooped down to the pond edge and started walking around the clear side of the bank, picking up bits of dead leaf and grass, presumably looking for afternoon tea.

Buzzards like an easy meal – will happily eat carrion – and I suspect he was looking for a frog or two. I believe frogs tend not to eat while they’re in the mating process and if they’re not in robust health, it’s not unknown for them to lie down and die after fulfilling their biological imperative. So perhaps Mr Buzzard got lucky and found a snack or two. I’ll keep a lookout for him to see if it’s on his regular beat now.

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February 7th 2010

This past week, frogs (Rana temporaria – Common Frog) have started migrating back to the pond for spawning purposes. Since we re-instated the pond about 3 years ago, the frog spawn season in this part of southern Normandy bocage seems to be increasingly early.

Alerted by our ever-vigilant cats, we realised something was going on down in the pond on Friday. When our cats sit around a pond staring down in rapt attention, you just know that something is going on. We went down to the pond expecting to see our spring visitors – a couple of ragondin (coypu) – but no, the cats were watching the amorous activities of a pool full of frogs.

Gussie staring intently at the pond life

Having walked down to the pond and seen the frantic departure of the frogs for the cover at the bottom and around the edges of the pond, we headed back up the hill for the camera. We discovered the frogs are surprisingly aware of movement – well, those that weren’t practising limb knitting in groups were – and it was difficult to get sufficiently close to get a good photograph to show the sheer volume of creatures.

The black "blobs" are the heads of frogs

This, woefully inadequate, photo shows little dark blobs sticking up from the pond surface. They’re frogs and with the aid of binoculars we counted around 38 heads above water – and there were others below water, females being lovingly grasped round the chest by the males. The inadequacy of that photo reminds me I really want a digital camera with a real zoom rather than my very user-friendly Sony SteadyShot with its optical zoom of 4x. One day…

I have to say, though, that as a reliable point-and-shoot, it can deliver some very reasonable close shots.

Approximately 6 frogs all attracted to and attached - I assume - to a female at the bottom of the heap

Eventually, they did all detach themselves and slip into the water under the cover of grass.

Frogs top and bottom, floating over a bed of spawn…

…and if you look closely, the photo does begin to give an impression of how much frog spawn has been laid.

A few facts…

Frogs and toads mate by the male holding the female around the chest. When the female pushes her eggs out, the male is in position to overlay his sperm on the emerging eggs.

Frogs lay clumps of spawn; toads – who usually produce their eggs a few weeks later than frogs – lay their eggs in strings.

Frogs prefer shallow water – say around 9 inches deep whereas toads prefer deeper water of around a foot deep.

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Slamseys Journal

Modern Country living

Site Title

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein

Life in Mud Spattered Boots

country life on a farm in England

Days on the Claise

Mostly a wildlife and plant diary for this part of Normandy in the Vire / Mortain / Villedieu-les-Pôeles area. But also a record of a miscellany of thoughts, events and activities. Pictured below are Red Admiral butterfly, Great Green Bush Cricket, a glow worm and a Jersey Tiger moth

Real Food Lover

Good food starts with good ingredients from good soil

French wildlife and beekeeping

Mostly a wildlife and plant diary for this part of Normandy in the Vire / Mortain / Villedieu-les-Pôeles area. But also a record of a miscellany of thoughts, events and activities. Pictured below are Red Admiral butterfly, Great Green Bush Cricket, a glow worm and a Jersey Tiger moth

Pencil and Leaf

Mostly a wildlife and plant diary for this part of Normandy in the Vire / Mortain / Villedieu-les-Pôeles area. But also a record of a miscellany of thoughts, events and activities. Pictured below are Red Admiral butterfly, Great Green Bush Cricket, a glow worm and a Jersey Tiger moth

The Spinning Shepherd § La Bergère Filandière

Mostly a wildlife and plant diary for this part of Normandy in the Vire / Mortain / Villedieu-les-Pôeles area. But also a record of a miscellany of thoughts, events and activities. Pictured below are Red Admiral butterfly, Great Green Bush Cricket, a glow worm and a Jersey Tiger moth

LOOSE AND LEAFY in DORSET

Mostly a wildlife and plant diary for this part of Normandy in the Vire / Mortain / Villedieu-les-Pôeles area. But also a record of a miscellany of thoughts, events and activities. Pictured below are Red Admiral butterfly, Great Green Bush Cricket, a glow worm and a Jersey Tiger moth