THE RAMBLINGS OF A STRUGGLING ARTIST ON LIFE WITH TWO TERRIERS, A PONY WITH ISSUES AND OTHER WILDLIFE AND BIRDS THAT CROSS OUR PATH

19 March 2014

SWAILING



Swailing - Controlled or prescribed burning

I have been waiting to do this post for nearly two years but missed it the first year I was blogging and last year was scuppered by rain so that it wasn't done in this area at all. As I'm sure many of you know, swailing is an ancient skill, which clears the ground of dead and overgrown vegetation, allowing new growth to flourish. Gorse and bracken can take over with the demise of grazing animals, and the controlled burning keeps them in check. I had no idea they were doing it today but noticed plumes of smoke as I walked back from dropping Trigger with the Madams this afternoon:


As I came over the ridge my suspicions were confirmed


The ponies seemed completely oblivious to what was happening:


This swail was being undertaken by local farmers or commoners, who graze their sheep and cattle on the moor.







The paths and fire-breaks that are cut before the swail contain and control the fire's desire to spread; the wind was REALLY strong today.



Tomorrow the air will be heavy with the smell of charred grass but in a few months, the green will start to come back.

Trigger has a new friend......


A black and white one who turns up every feeding time.........


Handsome devil. 


Unlike these two female blackbirds appearing to be having a fight on the drive.....foot in mouth. 


Yesterday the dogs and I walked down to the river. 






On the way home we saw this dead shrew. Poor little thing.


OB says thank you for all your birthday wishes and I say thank you for all your positive comments about the cake! It is long gone obviously. Cake doesn't last long in this house. 

The weather is turning tomorrow so Trigger may well be back in his coat, the dogs' walks won't be as extensive and the coal will be back on the fire. We will all miss the sunshine......


......one of us more than the others:


So until next time, have a lovely evening. We've just lost the TV signal AGAIN. What was wrong with analogue exactly? It just went fuzzy in the old days. 



43 comments:

  1. Interesting to see the burning on the moor. They do the same on the heathland here round the forest. Your blackbird photo is fantastic! x

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    1. Those Blackbirds were lying in a heap with exhaustion after a massive bout of fighting. The males I understand, but I have no idea what females would be fighting over......a particularly attractive twig perhaps?

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  2. Around here Magpies are off like a shot as soon as they see a person so your photo is a good one and the blackbird picture - what are they doing?
    Burning stubble is something that we were glad to see the end of but watching the moor burning must be a bit frightening although I'm sure the farmers know exactly how to control it.

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    1. My guess above is as good as I can get with the Blackbirds. Very strange! I used to get frightened about the burning but watching them do it, they definitely know what they're doing and there were actually five of them out there yesterday.

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  3. While you have a controlled burn we have fire warnings. The winds are blowing and since we have had no winter rains we are tinder dry ! It is fire season already in Tucson.
    Your Two Gud Dugs have a great life. All the running and playing in the hills. The smiling contented nap in the sun shows how happy they are.

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Jack is half cat I think. He'll find the tiniest bit of sun to bask in!

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  4. I`ll have to take some photos of our local burning. They did it here last week. Hopefully before the woodlarks and other ground nesters got too busy.

    Have you seen the magpie on Trigger`s back yet. They love to help themselves to shedding winter coat hair straight from the ponies` backs! Good nest insulation :-)

    Jack looks a very contented dog in his sunbathing photos.

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    1. I haven't seen the Magpies on his back but will keep a look out. His coat is coming out in hanks!

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  5. Sorry that I missed commenting on the birthday cake, I saw it though, and it looked wonderful. So, happy belated birthday!!! I knew about burning, but didn't know that it had a special name, very interesting to find this out, I love how you have been waiting so long to do this post!! Hope that you are having a good week. xx

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    1. I am today.....a day to myself. Lots of housework but I'm going to try and do a drawing; the first that is n't a commission in about nine months!

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  6. Swailing is an excellent way of increasing greenhouse gas emissions!

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  7. Controlled burn fascinated me as a child...a closet pyromaniac?
    I swooned at the handsome magpie!
    Jane x

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    1. He is a bit gorgeous isn't he? They've got used to me over the weeks which is how I got so close. That and the zoom obviously!

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  8. The farmers burn the stubble from the corn after harvest, up in Yorkshire. Down here in southwest California fire season is frightening and since we've had next to no rain for months and months, thenext fire season is likely to be a bad one.

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    1. I'll keep my fingers crossed it isn't too bad Chris. It must be terrifying. One good thing about having as much rain as we do I guess but sometimes, in a dry summer, we do have unplanned fires, some lit deliberately unfortunately. People are unbelievable sometimes aren't they?

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  9. I am not surprised those dogs are flat out in your last photos - after all the galloping about they do. They must be very fit.
    We have heather burning here (not called swailing though) and it is controlled - something to do with the grouse but not sure exactly what.

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    1. Snippet isn't as fit as he was but Jack is ridiculous. I've never known an animal with so much energy!

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  10. I love seeing your photos Em, the ones of your dogs, Trigger, that beatiful bird and the Moors. All very interesting and enjoyable. I wonder if they have to have the fire service around for those controlled burnings?

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    1. They usually have a park ranger if there's one available, but they're pretty good at it.

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  11. A really wonderful and interesting post with the usual great photos :) I love the new pony.

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  12. Terrific photos of the Blackbirds - and fascinating, too. The swailing is interesting, although I was glad to see the end of stubble burning here. I never like to see the fields alight and covered with thick, black smoke.
    Lovely photos of the dogs in the sun and the new pony.

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    1. I walked quite close to it today and it STINKS!

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  13. I've been up on the moors and seen (and smelt) the aftermath. It can cover quite large areas sometimes.

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    1. I think that one is about ten acres, but I'm not sure. It looks like a big scar on the landscape but next year it'll be lovely again.

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  14. They have just been swailing near me, on Kit Hill which is home to sheep and ponies as well as the wildlife. I was a bit concerned because I love hearing the skylarks overhead when I'm walking my dog up there and this week, after the swailing, there was silence. :( Hopefully the birds hadn't started nest-building and the greenery will shortly reappear. It is good for curtailing the spread of the gorse and bracken, but also kills off the ticks which are such a threat to the animals.

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    1. Funny you should mention ticks as I was just thinking how odd it is not ti have found any on the dogs yet this year. They're usually covered as soon as the sun comes out. Up here the birds are just fluttering about with each other; I don't think they're building yet thank goodness. Gorse is such a scourge here. Is that Kit Hill in Cornwall?? I'll have a look.....

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    2. Yes, Kit Hill on the outskirts of Callington is just a few miles from the village where I live. We have been glad to see the sunshine over the last few days, but now we're forecast stormy weather, lower temperatures and even snow. Oh well, I still wouldn't live anywhere else.

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  15. Just as well they got on with that burning off, it's raining today...at least here. Presumably Trigger has his coat on and no doubt welcomes it. They tend to get the tractor out up here to cut the gorse over Chambercombe and Potter's Hill, I think I'd prefer to see the burning off really, to my mind it's more effective encouraging the new growth.

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    1. I agree although that smell today is pretty bad! It's only just started raining here and he hasn't got his coat on YET. Have you seen the fur on him???

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    2. ...he does look a bit like a woolly mammoth lol :-)

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  16. You have grass and sunshine !!! I an envious. I blogged the local Fire Dept. swailing 2 years ago along the waterfront of the bay, as there were some evasive grasses taking over. xx

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    1. I feel for you with the snow Cindy. It's been TOO long now!

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  17. I heard them mentioning swailing on Dartmoor on the local news. Your pictures of it are so good. The blackbirds fighting is amazing.
    Sarah x

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    1. I'm clueless as to what they were up to!

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  18. Hi
    Very interesting post and lovely pictures your dogs and the pony.

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  19. Great photos Em, really lovely to see these more unusual things happening.

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    1. So easy to miss......you often see and smell it after the event!

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  20. We have controlled burns every year on the farm. They burn the woods, food plots and areas that have gotten too overgrown. They burned around our woods this year and the smoke was awful. And then to make things worse, the wind picked up during the night and we had a low layer of smoke through the woods, around the house and smoke rolling off the roof. Of course the smell and smoke made it into the house so on with the overhead fan. Another down side is I lost way more than half of my goldfinches and large numbers of other birds that were roosting in the woods. I do the Project Feeder Watch and my goldfinch numbers from the weekend before were 42, after the burn they were 16 :(

    Gorgeous Magpie! I don't think I have ever seen female birds fighting like that before.

    The dogs were sure enjoying the sun!

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  21. So many gorgeous photos, I loved catching up.

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