When Charlie met Flopsy

Eye to eye contact.

Eye to eye contact.

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I HOPE you can see what was happening outside my kitchen window, from this very blurred photo I took with my little digital camera.

Charlie the old cock pheasant who has been with us for three years is confronting a rabbit.

No ordinary rabbit. She is one of a litter of wild ones all of which were normal except her.

She decided to be tame and enjoy the protection we humans gave her, probably out of sentiment.

Maybe she had a gene missing and was just stupid. She would sit on the lawn with us at teatime and save me the job of cutting the grass.

Her siblings were probably outraged at this foolishness and had nothing to do with her.

They emerged only at twilight out of the hedge bottom and if they saw me, scattered into cover.

We didn’t give her a name because that sounded too soppy for words – what we used to call “wet” at school.

Then a visitor from the town said the name Flopsy and of course it stuck. It was, after all, easier than “the tame rabbit”.

Charlie was all right for a name because he was a Southern Caucasian pheasant way back in time when that breed (Phasianus colchicus colchicus) was brought from that area in ancient time to Britain.

Again, much easier to say than three long words in either English or Latin. So Charlie and Flopsy eyeballed for a good ten seconds as they wondered what to do about each other. It was his territory, and hers too.

She had dug a hole in the lawn, surrounded by a tuft of southern wood sedge to hide her burrow, and had inside the stop given birth to a litter. We had never seen her buck but that was her affair.

Whereas there are pecking orders among birds depending on size but not necessarily species, Charlie knows his place. He is at the top of the order.

Buzzards and kites fly over but he knows they won’t come down. This was her territory too.

I have often watched lactating does seeing off stoats and weasels, turning to kick them with back legs and running aggressively about with long faces like St Pere David deer.

On this occasion both bird and rabbit stood immobile. Finally, he stared at something interesting on the ground a few inches away and she saw a blade of grass, just over there. They stood down.

We never discovered if her deficient gene had been passed on to her young. She was not at the top of her pecking order in the garden, though, a badger was.

All her young disappeared down his throat in the night and then her incautious behaviour gave an easy chance for the fox.

Charlie is much more crafty and goes on living.