Finally our mild weather came to a halt during the second week in January and instead we were faced with cold winds and rain by night and awoke in the mornings to frozen windscreens on our cars!
My mornings start early and I am out and about by 6.45 am attempting to walk my dogs in the New Forest by torch light and feeding my horses en route which can and is somewhat of a challenge on dark dreary mornings. At least by just after 7 am if the weather is bright enough I can at least see the outline of my dogs and find the horses resting in one of the paddocks. They too have noticed the sudden change in the weather and I am greeted with nudges in the back hoping to motivate me more quickly to get the food out! In the meantime the dogs sit patiently by the gate avoiding huge hooves in the shuffle to get to the best tasting hay first.
Normally by Nov/Dec I start hanging peanuts and seeds from the branches in the field. This year the mild conditions has seen plenty of insects and food available leaving the containers of food untouched. Now the weather has changed I have seen a difference in the birds attendance and the feeders are now empty on arrival. I have noticed that a collection of birds, from robins, blackbirds, blue tits, marsh tits, nuthatches, woodpeckers, magpies pigeons arrive and feed early morning and upon my return visit in the evenings I will have to replenish all feeders. During the winter months when the day light hours are shorter birds feed early morning and early afternoon but these habits change as the weather gets warmer.
I am very fortunate to have grazing land for my horses right on the edge of the New Forest with only a couple of residential properties leading off the lane. Fortunately I get to see a vast amount of wildlife, for instance my visit this morning saw three roe deer happily wandering through the paddocks having jumped the fence from the forest side in search of food in the surrounding fields. On occasions I may find a vixen searching along the stream knowing that rabbits have burrows there. Badgers also venture in from the forest creating gaps under the fencing and make their pathways across the fields during their nightly visits searching out grubs and beetles. Another unusual visitor that often springs up from the stream is a heron – what he manages to find is a mystery to me but there is obviously something tasty lurking beneath the water and his reason for visiting! We have resident tawny owls which I often hear during my visits and not forgetting our summer visitors a pair of buzzards who nest in a small clump of fir trees sitting along our natural stream which runs through two of the fields. I never tire of what I will find with each visit – for me its an absolute delight I thrive on it, what could be better, nature at its best!
Getting back to the topic of which I wanted to highlight in this article is to ask everyone, now the weather is changing, please wherever possible keep feeding our wild birds. The cold weather will make them vulnerable especially if and when extreme cold weather descends, many northern places in the UK are experiencing cold conditions already. Providing them with food will help them survive and provide you with hours of entertainment. I hope many of you will have taken part in the RSPB bird count at the end of January! We must do all we can to help our feathered friends at this time of year and don’t forget the water – they still need to drink and bathe. If it freezes make sure you make water available during the day – water is equally as important, if not more so!
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Thank you for your lovely cards and letters, may I wish you all the best for 2016. Let us hope that it brings less rain and a little more sunshine. The last two months of 2015 were extremely hard work keeping the animals and birds warm and dry.
It was early November when a young sparrow-hawk was found injured in a garden in Fordingbridge and brought to the office at AV by a very kind man. This sharp faced hawk is a predator and I had to think carefully where I would place him. The aviary next to Rosie the owl had become vacant so after dressing the wing and feeding him I felt this would probably be the best place for him to stay. His new accommodation would provide him with an area to fly once the dressing was removed.
He was such a beautiful bird and during his stay I called him Pedro. Over the coming days he was happy for me to look at his wing and feed him. At last the day came when I removed the dressing for the last time. The wing looked repaired and within a few days he was flying well around the aviary.
With this kind of bird it was paramount I released him as soon as he was fit and well due to it being so easy for this kind of bird to become reliant on humans for food and naturally this would not benefit him upon release. So apart from feeding and looking after the wing I distanced myself from the young hawk.
Happy with the sparrow-hawks progress, on the 17th December I took him with me to my fields where I keep Bonnie my cow. We have a large barn and it was here I decided to release Pedro. Within seconds he flew out of the barn, circled 3 times in the air and headed for the forest. I called goodbye and good luck and felt my work was done, he was fit and well and we had given him an opportunity to carry on with his life.
All that remains to be said is to thank you all for your very kind letters and help over the past year. Here’s wishing you all a very happy new year and a wonderful spring.
I am sat at my desk preparing my article for our very first 2015 magazine which hopefully will be with you by February. I really find it hard to comprehend how 2014 has slipped past so quickly. Perhaps because we have so many dates such as office meetings, fund raising events, talks and of course the running of the sanctuary and managing the shop and office—it really does not give my team and myself time to think about each days events and before you know it the week has passed. Then suddenly the month has disappeared which quickly develops into six months and incredibly from there the year has ended and we are entering a new one!
I am studying the diary for January and see so many dates have been booked for the coming months. These days there never seems to be any time for us all to catch our breath before we have some large or tiny creatures brought through our doors to care and look after. Spring is a time when we have a burst of young animals and birds being born or hatched and of course with this event come the sick and injured. Like so many organisations it can become extremely busy and very demanding but of course we do this to help protect our animal kingdom and like all of us they too sometimes need nursing back to health. Our world is so fragile at the moment and as animal lovers we must all stand together and help animals were we can!
This is why I am asking you to continue to support the work we do and to encourage others to join our quest and help animals. If you can encourage one new member to join our work this helps us financially and allows us to take our work forward and help those that can not speak for themselves. There are other areas you could also help us raise funds and make others aware of the work we do by organising a coffee morning, a cake stand or perhaps deliver some leaflets in your area, this helps to spread the word and hopefully others will join us and help us to make the world a better place for our animals here and abroad! If you would like some extra magazines or leaflets please get in touch and we will despatch these to you as soon as we can—any help will boost our funds and allow us to take up more challenges! Whatever is happening in the world we must stand united in helping those who can not speak for themselves!
You will see from the photographs that we had an influx of underweight hedgehogs during November and you will probably remember the weather through late summer into autumn was extremely mild. Sometimes hedgehogs will have a second litter during September which does not allow the young hoglets enough time to put on weight to see them through the winter months. This can be devastating for some hedgehogs when we endure particularly cold spells as nature tells them its time to sleep throughout the cold months and to hibernate. Unfortunately this can mean underweight hedgehogs may not survive the winter months! As you can see from the photographs of the hedgehogs I have at the sanctuary they are being fed every day. However the bigger ones do not eat every day but the smaller ones are still tucking into plates of food. God willing they will all continue to be healthy and I will be able to release them back into the wild once big enough and when the weather begins to improve, hopefully late Spring!
Hedgehog numbers are becoming increasingly less and less due to their natural habitat being lost, road kill, and poisoning from slug pellets and pesticides. They are adorable creatures and we really must do our up most to protect them where we can. I can fully understand why they appear in much loved children’s stories and of course the famous Beatrix Potter books which illustrates them beautifully bringing them to life as do all the other wonderful creatures included in her stories. It is important to remember hedgehogs are good for the gardens helping to rid the garden of slugs and snails naturally!
Back in November during my daily visits to feed my cows I have to travel approximately three miles out of Fordingbridge along a very narrow country lane. One morning whilst on my way to feed as I turned the corner I saw a very strange bird was running along the verge desperately trying to find a way back through the hedge. I stopped my vehicle and traffic while the bird which was a guinea fowl and very agile found a suitable gap in the hedge to get back into the fields where it was living.
I tried many mornings with the help of other passer-by’s to capture the bird as I firmly believed it would get run over or hurt! My worst fears were realised when I received a call from a lady saying that she had found the guinea fowl on the road with a injured leg. Naturally I took him in straight away and made the bird comfortable. Week by week his progress got better and I had thought he had turned a corner and would be ok. Unfortunately the week before Christmas he kept sitting a lot and not moving. I decided to take him indoors into my conservatory to look after him. Again he looked as if things were improving but alas I came down stairs two days before Christmas to find that he had passed away in his sleep.
As most will know they have beautiful black and white plumage with white spots and are extremely fast at running preferring to do this rather than fly. They feed on insects and seeds and I can only assume that this one had escaped from somewhere or was abandoned at the road side as they normally live in groups and I understand they are birds that also mate for life.
My thanks to all of you who continue to support our work and for your kind donations, gifts, stamps, animal bedding and food etc. We are truly grateful for all that you send and it makes a huge difference in helping the wildlife we care for. I would like to take this opportunity in wishing everyone a happy New Year from us all here at Animals’ Voice. We really couldn’t do it without everyone’s generosity!
God Bless and thank you.
We are most grateful to Animals’ Voice Member Helen Perry above who with her friend Judy Snook delivered a large selection of items to James Mason House on 11 November to help us raise funds at our forthcoming Christmas Table Top Sale on the 29 November.
Helen had arranged to visit us a few weeks beforehand and travelled with her friend Judy from Hertfordshire to AV Headquarters here in Hampshire. Upon their arrival Jayne and Tracy helped them unload their car and once all of the carefully packed boxes were safely stowed inside Animals’ Voice shop, Helen, Judy, Jayne, and Tracy retired for a much needed cup of coffee. Helen has supported our work for many years and is familiar with the town and the surrounding area and later that morning she and Judy spent some time visiting local shops before having lunch in town!
Before leaving we all snapped various photographs of each other and, being an accomplished photographer herself, Helen took some fun photographs of AV staff Jayne and Tracy before leaving! Thank you Helen.
During October 2014 Mrs Frances Hawkes of Kent was on her way to nearby Southbourne to spend a weeks holiday when to the delight of Animals’ Voice Chairman and staff, Frances called in to deliver items she had been collecting for us to sell in our shop here in Fordingbridge.
Many members will recognise Frances from previous issues of our magazine and know of her charitable work for ourselves and the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon.
Frances and her late husband Joe have supported Animals’ Voice since the 1970’s when they regularly travelled from Kent to Fordingbridge to meet the late Ted Cox, Founder Chairman of Animals’ Voice!
We are most grateful to Frances for the wonderful items she donated for us to sell here in our shop and besides donating items for us to sell we hope Frances enjoyed her holiday whilst here in the south.