Pheasants dealt a helping hand

The pheasant - colourful but dim
The pheasant - colourful but dim

Gormless or what? No matter the multicoloured splendour of the cock pheasant, nothing alters the fact he is not the sharpest card in the deck!

However, let’s be fair, no other bird has shaped our countryside the way the pheasant has.

The whole reason so many of our woods are long thin strips is because they were planted so that beaters could drive pheasants towards the guns.

They were planted at a time when our hunger for timber and firewood had denuded the land of trees.

A late gamekeeper friend of mine could recall the return of deer as recently as the 1940s.

Where pheasant shooting was a major part of the rural economy, there was good reason to retain these bits of natural habitat. Woods needed to be draught-proofed to entice pheasants to stay, which led to the planting of much woodland underscrub and edging in the form of snowberry, privet, blackthorn and hawthorn, much to the aid of other nesters.

Unfortunately one particular draughtproofing shrub has fallen out of favour for being too successful. I refer to the alien and invasive rhododendron, which is much hated among modern conservationists.

Another way the humble pheasant assists fellow woodland species is in the fact they need to be fed.

Pheasant feeders attract a multitude of woodland birds in hard weather. The harsher the conditions, the more the crowd of freeloaders grows.

There is the contentious issue of predator control. Despite the way other species prosper where ground predator numbers are limited, the whole issue of killing one species to assist another is not one many modern conservationists can agree with.

That’s all very well but there have been instances of rare species being allowed to become locally extinct as breeders for the want of some targeted predator control.

George Hogg, Hogg Estate Service, Wildlife Management