I fear that my lovely tame pheasants Henrietta and Philip have vanished. Henrietta went missing first, back in the early Spring. To begin with I didn’t worry. Philip’s behaviour became a little odd as he took to policing the fence at the back of our orchard where the ground climbs to the woods, so I hoped that she’d just taken herself off to scout for a nesting site up there. After a week I began to look for her. A fortnight later Philip disappeared too. In the past they’d never gone missing for more than a day or two. Ty Isaf was Philip’s territory. He’d been hatched up in those woods and first came to scavenge beneath our bird-feeders while still a rather unprepossessing adolescent, scruffy and with no tail. But over the months he transformed into a magnificent creature…
…and later his splendour attracted the doting Henrietta, who appeared here last year to become his consort. I can’t conceive that they’ve left for different parts. Henrietta was a constant presence in the grounds of Ty Isaf, easy with humans and with our terrier Jack too. She would follow me around companionably as I went about weeding. I’d often step outside to find her waiting for me, sitting placidly in the sun under one of her favourite shrubs, chirruping with pleasure when I pulled some bird seed from my pockets on greeting her. I’m filled with sadness at the thought that I may not see her again.
Henrietta keeping watch over the garden from the Rose Terrace.
In the last months when Philip and Henrietta were still here, they were joined by a younger bird, Agnes, who became the third in their little menage. Henrietta, stout and gregarious, herded Agnes about and seemed happy to be in charge of things. But Agnes remained shy and wouldn’t come to take any food I’d brought until I’d moved away. She could be a tad hysterical, running about in many directions when alarmed, which was most of the time. Henrietta would take control and calm her down, and they’d snuggle together when enjoying dust-baths under the box-hedge. Then came a younger male that kept a respectful distance from the females, but hung out with Philip who seemed entirely un-threatened by the new arrival. I named him Tiberius.
Tiberius and Agnes remain here, clearly now a mating pair. Agnes is still shy, but less so than she was. (For a while after Henrietta had gone, she barely moved from their dust-bathing spot under the hedge, and I wondered whether she was waiting for her friend to return to their favourite haunt.) Tiberius never comes very near me… probably a good thing… though he’s tolerant of Jack. Over the past weeks he’s erupted into full mating plumage, his ‘ear tufts’ a lot more prominent than Philip’s. (Philip’s were like neat curved horns, but Tiberius sports a pair that look like small satellite dishes have sprung from his brows!)
So here we are with a pair of pheasants coming each day to Ty Isaf to be fed and to forage safely in the grounds, just as their predecessors did before them. Tberius has found his own dust-bath in the remains of our last big bonfire, and sometimes emerges from the wood-ash looking like the ghost of a pheasant! When I hear their distinctive cries, or when Agnes spots me and runs up the drive to see whether I have seed in my pockets… and I try not to disappoint her… I can almost pretend that Philip and Henrietta are with us still. But sadly they aren’t.
Tiberius and Agnes. Tiberius’s ‘satellite dish’ ear tufts show nicely in this photograph.
Here are some photographs of the garden as it looked a couple of days ago. The earlier flowering daffodil varieties are over, though the later ones in shady corners are still fresh and perfect. Primroses curd the lower orchard and the tree-line behind the house. Everything is coming very fast. Iris blooms shall be unfurling within the week. The bulbous buds of poppies are uncoiling from nests of leaves and the spires of monkshood are shooting up, visibly taller every morning.