You may remember a previous post about our phantom fritillary eater, and I ended up accusing the male pheasant which struts around the garden after waking me at 5 in the morning. The other day, when I went to draw back the bedroom curtains, there in the woodland, in a shaft of sunlight, right by my fritillaries was……….
…..the white female pheasant! I flew downstairs, flung on my wellies and gardening coat as I was still in my pyjamas and crept up behind a holly bush to try and get a photograph, not very good I’m afraid, but the best I could do in the heat of the moment. I made myself as small as I could and crept into the woodland trying to stay behind the trunk of one of the oak trees, sad to say that they are thinner than I am unfortunately! The pheasant had walked to the end of the woodland where she then lay down behind a tussock of grass with just her head showing. I must have been within about 8 ft of her and was just raising the camera when suddenly she was off into the air, flying through the trees, across the garden and into the field. This is the first time we have seen her in the garden and now wonder if it is her causing all the damage to the fritillaries.
One thing I did notice however after she left me, was how many more fritillaries had opened up in the sunshine that we have had lately.
To start with there was just a cluster of pale coloured flowers, but as the days went by, more and more purple flowers opened up, there were lots of buds hiding down below which hadn’t been seen by their protagonist, and therefore escaped being eaten.
Reading various books, it is obvious that I am not the only one who has this problem, Beth Chatto solves her problem by eating them (the pheasants not the flowers!) and various books about bulbs say that pheasants are partial to fritillary flowers. So what can the answer be?
I don’t really want to fence them off, but on the other hand it was so depressing to see the first flowers so chewed. Lots of replacements have now appeared so there will be plenty of seed to sprinkle around. I’m still thinking that maybe the pheasants were tempted because at the time everywhere was frozen solid, no creepy crawlies or juicy worms for them to eat so my fritillaries were next on the menu unfortunately!