Lambs arrive in the Lamb Rover
One of the many delights of an Easter holiday in a comfy stone cottage at Watermill Cottages in South Devon’s AONB is helping to feed lambs. Seeing them play, leap and bound against the stunning views over Start Bay beyond Slapton from our sunset field is one of life’s great and simple joys at Watermill Cottages. And this spring, there’s a tale to tell!
The Lamb Rover parked in the lane. We heard the bleating of week-old lambs crying for their mums who were in the attached trailer. Jade and Ollie had brought them from Jolly Farm to enjoy our Sunset Field in the Gara Valley.
We lifted the lambs out first and carefully handed them over the field fence, then opened the gate and the trailer. Ewes ran straight into the field, and, oh the noise, as they bleated for their lambs and the lambs squeaked back. A spring cacophony as they searched and sniffed and baa’ed with relief.
The mums have a number sprayed on their fleece. The digit denotes where they are in the birthing order. Red means a single lamb, the lamb shares the same number. Blue means twins, each twin lamb carrying the same number. We checked them all… Hmmm… Ewe 12 had a blue number but only one lamb. Oh dear. One Twin 12 had been left behind in the lambing barn. And this on Mother’s Day.
Christine with Twin 12 in the ‘lambulance’.
Jade and Ollie drove straight home to check the barn. A lamb this young needs to feed very often so there was no time to lose. Yes, a shaking Number 12 was there. We drove over immediately in our ‘lambulance’, John’s word, on an emergency mission to reunite lamb and ewe. On the way back, I carried Twin 12 on my lap, a thick towel underneath in case of other lamb emergencies. He was warm and calm, looking out the window at green fields.
Back at The Sunset Field we drove in and looked for Ewe 12. There she was, on the crest. I put her missing lamb on the ground. It had a good shake and bleated. Mum replied and on tottering legs it galloped over to her, nudged her udder and drank long and happily. Success!
Two days later, more newborns and ewes arrived. We feed them daily, enjoying their bouncing spring energy and different personalities.
Come and join us and meet this year’s lambs, there’s still some availability at Watermill Cottages in the Easter holidays, email email@example.com or call 01803 770219.
View Over Start Bay
August brings us sunshine and smiles in the stream… and it also brings us the results of nature going about her quiet business.
This week, a tale of two watery juveniles who met their death, a kingfisher and an otter.
Guests on holiday at Watermill Cottages found the body of a beautiful kingfisher. This year we’ve all been seeing them whizz up and down the stream, so fast, it seemed impossible that anything could stop them. Its body wasn’t damaged, just the tip of its beak was bent.
We stood amazed at the brilliance of its plumage, stroking its darting, iridescent, gleaming, turquoise-blue and gasping at the burnt orange contrast.
The same day, other guests found half a body of an otter at the edge of the stream in the valley. Again, they’ve been heard and seen all season. What would kill an otter? When we went to look, nature had taken over. The carcass was gone. Foxes, badgers, crows feasting as they tidied.
I rang Slapton Ley Field Centre and spoke to Nick Binnie, Reserve Officer, who gave me a fuller picture.
There were three likely causes of the otter death. Perhaps a juvenile otter had strayed into the territory of the Gara Brook otter family and had not picked up the scent of the spraint. Spraint is how otters mark their territory – they defend territory viciously.
Or it had died of illness. Or maybe a female otter had given birth to three kits. Nick said a female can only raise two kits to adulthood; if she attempts to raise three they all die. So she waits until they are juveniles, then decides which to abandon…. which is the weakest… This is the most likely cause of of our otter’s death.
Nick asked a few questions about the kingfisher. ‘Does it have a white tip to its beak? if it does, then it’s a juvenile.’ I looked. Yes, it did.
‘The problem is, as with human juveniles, they have a taste for speed but aren’t yet experienced enough to navigate fully so there’s more likelihood of them crashing into things like windows and dying.’
His other option, that perhaps a sparrow hawk had taken it and was disturbed before plucking it then dropped it, seemed unlikely as there were no wounds to the body.
So now we know…
… yet In animal classification, ‘Halcyon’ is the genus for kingfishers. A word that also means ‘happy, joyful, carefree’, as in the halcyon days of childhood. It comes from the Greek word for a bird which in legend is linked to the kingfisher.
The legend says that the bird nested on the sea in winter, which it calmed in order to lay its eggs on a floating nest. It meant that the ancients expected two weeks of calm weather around the winter solstice. This is why we use ‘halcyon’ as a term for peace or calmness as well as joyful and carefree.
I can see why a bird of such beauty inspired legends and words. It seems apt that it lived in our beautiful, peaceful and carefree valley.