Thursday, 6 May 2010

Bad Day at the Orifice

Last weekend brought us 3 things:- a public holiday (whatever that is); snow; and the last of our summer migrants, the cuckoo. The poor creature must have thought it had taken a wrong turning some place.
And it must now be seriously considering retracing its wingbeats as the winds have remained in the North every day since and it has been decidedly cool.
Thus far the unseasonal weather hasn't really affected us but we're now starting to find grouse nests which means the first chicks could be hatching within the next fortnight or so. And they need a bit of warmth to do well.
However, on the plus side, these temperatures are great for what we've been up to, namely walking ground. Basically, this involves a number of us walking in line roughly 80m apart, letting our terriers work as we go. This way we check out any sand holes, peat runners, cairns, ledges and any other places a fox may be lying up or have cubbed in.
One of Foxys' favoured type of terrain is really steep, rocky faces- and we've walked a few of them this week. Y'know, the sort of ground that you need one leg longer than the other and an extra hand to hold on with. Or, better still, wings!
Yesterday was one such day. It started off badly when we discovered not 1, not 2, but 3 punctures on assorted vehicles. And went downhill from there!
We walked the steep, right out one side of a glen and were about to stop for lunch when a dislodged stone rolled down and hit a terrier. Initially, its owner thought it had been killed but it came round. From there it was carefully carried 3 miles back to a rover, and taken to the vets. (Apparently she's got off with shock and bruising. Phew.)
The rest of us started working the other side of the glen homewards and, at around 2pm, we came to a cairn with a fox in it. We surrounded it and covered all the exits with our shotguns as the terriers went in.
By 4pm only my Maisie and the fox remained in the cairn and it was becoming apparent we had a stalemate. I let my colleagues go, took up position atop a large rock in the middle of the cairn, and started my lonely vigil.
At 5pm I heard barking and reckoned Maisie was still at the fox. This stalemate was turning positively mouldy!
Then, at 7pm, I heard her howling mournfully somewhere in the bowels of the cairn. She'd lost the fox and lost her way out. I stayed put, still hoping the fox would bolt.
I stood- and sat- and stood -and sat on my rock until, at 10pm, it was too dark to have seen the fox if it had bolted. Some you win.......
But often when a terrier sticks in a cairn it's because it can see daylight and wont go back the way it came. In such a situation it'll often find its way out on darkness. And that is what I was praying that Maisie would do.
As soon as I left my post and started picking my way- very gingerly- through the cairn I could hear her rumbling about. She was out within a minute or two, wagging her tail so hard she was losing traction at the rear.
All that then remained was to walk the hour back to my rover in the pitch dark. Once there I checked Maisie out by the light of the headlamps and found her unscathed by her ordeal.
Which is just as well as by now I was so hungry I could have eaten a scabby dug!


  1. I love this one, what an adventure for Maisie, glad she was ok. Still rather be waiting where you were rather than gritting out election night! Three more months to go! louise

  2. Well, all I can say is "Haven't you see fantastic mister fox"? It's essential viewing for all gamekeepers!
    Jane C