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Country diary: Winter isn’t the same without the grey partridges | Kate Blincoe


I am breaking the ice on the water tanks to allow the horses to drink, being careful not to freeze my hands. The pastures are covered in a beautiful hoarfrost as the sun shines through. Although it’s a picturesque sight, I can’t help but feel a bit anxious. The frosted grass contains high sugar levels which can lead to laminitis, a painful hoof condition for horses. However, all the horses seem to be doing well and my old horse is happily eating his warm feed.

Four male pheasants are fighting in the grassy area. They lower their heads and charge at each other in pairs, flapping their wings to show dominance. However, there is something noticeably absent from this scene. Only a couple of years ago, a group of grey partridges could be seen strutting around this field, with their distinctive horseshoe-shaped bellies sticking out as they hurried around. But now, they are no longer present.

Grey Partridge holding territory at Cley Marshes NWT2BGJ4ET Grey Partridge holding territory at Cley Marshes NWT

The decline of farmland birds can be attributed to the effects of agriculture and loss of habitat. However, there are areas dedicated to preserving nature, with vast stretches of land consisting of open grassland, hedgerows, and wild bird meadows that offer food and shelter during the winter season. Despite these favorable conditions, grey partridges in this location were unfortunately killed after wandering beyond the designated boundaries.

The status of grey partridges is “red-listed”, indicating they are in danger of becoming extinct. However, they are still allowed to be hunted during the majority of the fall and winter seasons. Supporters of hunting argue that although many birds that live on farmland have decreased in numbers, the need to maintain enough grey partridges for sport has resulted in substantial conservation measures. As a result, the number of partridges on shooting estates is higher compared to non-hunting farmland areas. Unfortunately, partridges raised in captivity have difficulty surviving in their natural habitat. Their limited awareness of danger makes them easy targets, treated as a commodity to be harvested.

In the untamed landscape, the teasels are adorned with ice and a group of small birds has gathered to enjoy the assortment of seeds. From this distance, they appear as brown specks, but I am aware that there are endangered birds such as linnets and yellowhammers among the bustling crowd.

The horse’s food container has been completely licked, his stomach is warm, and various types of animals on the farm are still doing well. However, this holiday season, there are no wild partridges in our fields, not even in the pear tree.

Source: theguardian.com