Country mouse on an affection for birds

Four red-legged partridge have adopted our drive as their home. These corpulent little game birds have never had the affection of the native greys, but I’ve grown rather fond of our quartet and their chukkar chukkar song, which has been compared to the piston-like sounds of a steam engine.

I don’t think that they’re wild, but raised by a gamekeeper, as during last Saturday’s storms, they took up residence on the front-door mat and barely budged when I went out to feed the chickens. They’re attractive rather than spectacular, with black, white and chestnut stripes on their flanks set against a white throat and distinctive red beak and legs, but their familiarity has made me warm to them and the little ways of their community.

Last winter, there was a hen pheasant that roosted in a tree above the lane leading to my house, and I looked out for her on each journey home, hoping that she was still alive. These feelings for birds, that I would shoot in the blink of an eye if they flew past me on a shoot day, may seem bizarre to some people, but the secret of all real sportsmen is a genuine love and admiration for his or her quarry.

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