Friday, 24 April 2015

Don't count

The first batch of eggs for 2015, started on 23 April
Last weekend I had a flurry of egg-buying on Ebay and secured three half-dozens of three different varieties of Common Pheasant. They all arrived safely in the post and I got them into the incubator on Thursday morning. It's very interesting to see the variation in colour of the eggs, and also their size. The bottom row (and first two of the second up, the vendor having generously supplied a seventh) are from an intriguing breed called Knettishall Diamond, very large and brown; the next six (greyish) are white; the three pale eggs are Lady Amherst's, which were to hand, and top row are from melanistic parents. Incubation time is about 25 days.

Friday, 10 April 2015

A seventeenth century royal peacock

Queen Henrietta Maria, 1633, with a pheasant and a peacock, in Magdalen College hall.

Detail of the peacock, brightened.
In a widow in the hall of Magdalen College, Oxford, are set the portraits in painted glass of King Charles I (1600-1649) and his consort Queen Henrietta Maria (1609-1669). Created in 1633, apparently the work of Richard Greenbury (d. 1670), they are exquisitely done in a difficult medium. Above the portraits are floral decorations, but in the bottom corners of each are birds. The King has a buzzard and partridge, but the Queen has a cock pheasant (of the 'old English' variety, without a white collar) and a peacock whose train couldn't be squeezed into the available space. Presumably they were chosen for their beauty, to compliment that of the queen.

Charles I, Magdalen hall.

Sunday, 5 April 2015


A view across part of the farm - a pen of lovely whites and an assortment beyond.
My outing this Easter morning was to a peacock farm in the flat farmland of the East Riding of Yorkshire - as it's not open to the public I won't give details, but I was kindly shown round by the proprietor, John. He and his wife moved to the site last year and are still establishing the pens needed to keep a very large number of peafowl, and breed from them. As well as the sheer number of birds there, the really exciting thing for me was to see for the first time a number of colour variants that I'd previously only known from images online and in the book Extraordinary Pheasants. Mostly selected in the United States they are still extremely rare in this country, with only a few enthusiasts keeping them. Though interesting to see, it has to be said that is quite a reflection on human perversity that dull-coloured versions of a bird known for its colour and beauty should be selected and become rather valuable!

Very many thanks to John for a truly fascinating morning.

A pied bronze peacock

Part of the train of a white-eyed opal peacock

Cameo (in flight) and Indian blue peacocks having a bit of a scrap.

Not showing its true colours very well in this pic, the purple colour variant really does have purplish overtones in its plumage. This purple black-shouldered peacock was magnificent.

The other species: the Javan Green Peafowl, Pavo muticus subsp. muticus, is an extremely handsome bird, but isn't quite as amenable to cultivation as the familiar P. cristatus.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Out for the first time

The first tentative steps out of the shed.
This afternoon, for the first time, I opened the door to allow my peafowl trio out into the big wide world. One of the cocks flapped out immediately and circumnavigated the pen a few times, before returning to the doorway of the shed. With the lure of some pellets the other two came out also, and after a short period hanging about round the door they moved off and began to explore. After a while I left them to it and went for dinner, returning at 19.30 to see what was happening. They'd gone about 50 m from home, but came up as soon as they saw me and were easily persuaded to go back into the shed and pen.

Starting to explore, watched by the guineafowl.

Already enhancing the Yorkshire Arboretum!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

A peacock vase by Lalique

An exquisite peacock-themed vase by Lalique, sold for $37,500 in November 2014