I’ve previously commented on the stupidity of chickens. But I think that pheasants might be worse. Quite beautiful, I love to see the cock pheasants in all their finery at this time of year, not withstanding the fact that they can become a bit grumpy…
But I do have to observe that the morning school run becomes a kind of wild life slalom as one tries to avoid all manner of God’s subjects, and pheasants do seem to be more determinedly suicidal than most. The countryside is full of feathered and furry creatures with more hormones than sense at this time of year, and they tend to become pre-occupied with impressing the opposite sex rather than remembering not to leap out in front of passing vehicles.
The other day, as Kevin and I were returning from some eminently forgettable chore, him driving the mini, me sitting in the passenger seat, probably giving him useful, but not necessarily asked for advice on how to improve his driving or some such thing; we were climbing the series of blind bends on the final hill before reaching our home in The Cotswolds, when we had to come to an abrupt halt behind an elderly couple who had parked their Volvo on a double white lined blind bend. We figured that to have stopped in such a dangerous place, they must have broken down, so Kevin stayed in the car, and I went to offer mobile phones, first aid etc.
It turned out that they hadn’t broken down at all, but were concerned about the well being of a rather dazed pheasant that had hit it’s head on a passing car. They were trying, unsuccessfully, to shoo it out of the road, away from the traffic. The pheasant was neither appreciative nor co-operative, so traffic was building on our lethal bend and something needed to be done.
I started off by trying to persuade the very charming couple that this wasn’t a wise place to stop, and, when they made it clear that the life of the pheasant was of greater importance than theirs, it was the work of a moment to pick it up, plonk it unceremoniously under my arm and then to carry it home on my lap in the mini. The traffic was finally able to move on.
The pheasant didn’t argue. I must admit that I never stopped to consider whether taking it onto my lap in the car might be biting off a little more than I could chew, either in terms of the pheasant’s opinion on the matter, or whether my actions might be seen as poaching; fortunately the pheasant seemed too dazed to have an active opinion on the matter. I could see an oil mark on its head and not much other outward sign of damage, but it was pretty unresponsive. We weren’t sure what it’s chances of survival were.
We put it on the front lawn when we got home and hoped for the best. I was slightly concerned that Marcus the cat might be a problem, but he tends to lose interest, very rapidly, if anything looks as though it might demand chewing, and so, apart from a few growls from a safe distance, left it well alone.
And there the pheasant stayed. As the hours passed, our hopes for his survival gradually dwindled; he didn’t move, he didn’t blink, he didn’t so much as ruffle a feather. Did he major internal injuries? Would it be kinder to wring his neck? Or should we just leave him? The world can be a hard and confusing place.
However, at three minutes past four in the afternoon, quite suddenly and completely without warning, he put his head up, shook himself, looked around, quite clearly said “well beggar me!… ’ow the ’eck did I get ’ere?!”, did a brief bit of strutting about, had a quick fight with one of our resident pheasants and flew off, never to return.
Will he learn by his experience? Will he be any wiser when negotiating roads and oncoming traffic in the future?
I rather doubt it.
But we can learn. Our pheasant gave us an admirable demonstration of one essential fact:
No matter how bleak things look, and no matter how grim you’re feeling, you never know quite what is just around the corner.
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