The rams had been in with the ewes for 16 days so the time had come to change the raddle colour on the rams chests. Raddle is a heavily pigmented oily paste smeared between the rams front legs that marks each ewe as the ram goes about his work. As ewes come in to season every 17 days or so in the autumn changing the colour allows us to see which ewes are now hopefully pregnant and also tells us roughly when each ewe is due to lamb. Walking across the marsh to deal with Colin, the Romney ram, the Stock Dove flock lifted off from the neighbouring recently ploughed arable fields. From 88 the flock had grown to 110 plus, a sizeable flock in Norfolk terms if the new Norfolk Bird Report 2012 is anything to go by. Wood Pigeon numbers, in contrast, seem to have fallen considerably from last winter but that could be because there are no oil seed rape crops in the immediate area this year.
After dealing with the rams I took the dog for a walk in to a distant corner of the patch by these arable fields in the hope of a something new. It was late in the day so many birds were heading to roost but there were 9 Fieldfares feeding on the wide uncultivated margins, looking particularly splendid as they always seem to do this time of year and a flock of 50 Linnets in the fields themselves. We surprised a Chinese Water Deer which stood motionless staring at us as we approached before he sped off across the field with my Jack Russell in hot pursuit. It suddenly stopped and turned to face its pursuer and the dog, clearly confused by this abrupt change, came to a sudden stop too. This was much to my relief as I've seen the damage a buck Muntjac inflicted on a small dog and this deer had a very fine set of tusks on him too. As I turned for home a Barn Owl glided silently ahead of me along the dyke edge, a sight to savour now they have become so scarce in the area.