Peacock of the midden


THERE can’t be many municipal tips which are home to an ostentation/pride/muster of peacocks (choose your collective noun), but ours at the nearby market town of Clitheroe is one. The local story is that a few were kept as pets at a house not far away. Either the owners decamped and left the birds unattended, or they decided off their own bats that there were richer pickings at the tip. Anyway they moved in some time ago, probably 15 or 20 years. The numbers seem to vary a bit but last week I counted ten.

I found it a challenge to take pictures – I wanted to show the contrast of the exotic fowl with the prosaic background of the tip, but either the birds come out as blips or you can’t see much of their home.

They roost in the trees surrounding the tip and breed regularly. The chicks (peachicks?) are quite small when they start getting their little crowns and are soon able to fly, long before they are fully grown. This is a stock picture.

I wouldn’t say they are friendly but they are not timid, and will graciously accept offerings of corn (we keep a bag in the glove compartment of the car). If they are hungry they will peck it from your hand. A few years ago Lancashire County Council issued an edict that the birds were not to be fed (of course we took no notice) as they wanted them to move away. I wrote and asked what possible reason there could be for this and asked what harm they were doing. Naturally I got no reply. I think there are more birds now than there were then, which is the best way to deal with council jobsworths. The tip staff are very proud of them.

There are two types of peafowl. The one we usually have here is the blue or Indian (Pavo cristatus); the other is the green (Pavo muticus) from south-east Asia. They belong to the pheasant family.

As every schoolboy knows (or used to), the male’s spectacular feathers are not a tail but sprout from the back. They are technically ‘highly elongated upper tail coverts’ or can be called a ‘train’. The bird raises them to attract a female and ‘shivers’ them with a rustling sound. This is one of the best videos I found – don’t worry about the annoying child: these are big birds and they are quite capable of administering a powerful peck.

Peafowl are sometimes kept as ornamentation for stately homes and mansions, but the drawback is the noise – they have a loud blaring call which is far from musical, and neighbours tend to get upset. Here is one giving it his all, with the bonus of some feather action.


OUR daughter Elizabeth sent this picture of the northern lights above Surbiton, south of London, on Friday night.

They are showing brilliantly above a densely populated area giving off loads of light. If you got any pictures at the same time, do put them in the comments section.


Pig of the Week

THIS adorable creature is a Mangalica pig (also spelled Mangalitza and Mangalitsa).

The breed was developed in Hungary in the mid-19th century, and is the only pig in the world with a long curly coat. It comes in three distinct colours: red, blonde and swallow-bellied.

The breed is sometimes called the lard pig because of the high ratio of fat to lean meat, about 60/40, which can be rendered to yield about 70 litres per carcase. This makes the meat tastier and less dry than modern breeds, but it also nearly spelled extinction in the mid-20th century when leaner breeds were wanted by the market. Since then it has recovered to an extent and it is estimated that there are more than 7,000 Mangalica sows in Hungary. There are populations in many other countries, including Britain, where the first 17 arrived in 2006, but the breed has not caught on in a big way here. The British Pig Association website says: ‘The Mangalitza has much to offer the domestic pig keeper. It’s a breed that will reward attentive owners with affection and interest; its natural inclination is simply to get on with life in a straightforward, no-nonsense fashion that can be ideally suited to those with busy lifestyles. This is a pig that’s rugged and durable yet friendly, docile and always approachable at the same time. It lives life at its own pace and, while by no means the quickest to grow, will reward its keepers with meat that must surely rank among the best there is for those with speciality pork products in mind. The Mangalitza’s unique appearance may not be to every pig fancier’s taste but, for those seeking something that’s out of the ordinary but nevertheless productive and easy to keep – even for a first-time keeper – this is most definitely a breed that takes a lot of beating.’

Here is a video from the US.

And here are some delightful piglets.

I don’t think there is a breed society in the UK but the Mangalitza pages of the British Pig Association have plenty of information and pictures. There is an interesting article here by a Canadian farmer.

PS: I note that the new series of Clarkson’s Farm features his venture with the fabulous Oxford Sandy and Black pigs, which I wrote about here. 


Wheels of the Week

THIS is a 1964 Jaguar S-Type 3.4 litre. It was produced from 1963 to 1968, and a total of 9,928 were made. (There was also a 3.8 option, of which 15,065 were made.) It was a technical improvement on the Mark II, launched in 1959, with features from the larger Mark X, launched in 1961. These included a larger boot.

Despite its (to me) staid appearance, the S-type soon found a niche as a getaway car in film and TV thrillers. (Plenty of room to store loot in the boot.) It featured in the opening scene of the 1967 film Robbery starring Stanley Baker, which you can see here.

Apparently Steve McQueen was so impressed with this chase that he chose director Peter Yates for his 1968 Hollywood blockbuster Bullitt.

In the 1971 film Villain Richard Burton’s character comments that the S-Type (a 3.8) is a ‘very nice car, Terry. Very good steal.’ It also appeared in Callan (1974), which starred Edward Woodward.

Most memorably many S-Types were used (and several destroyed) in the ITV series The Sweeney, broadcast between January 1975 and December 1978. Here and here are a couple of examples.

If you fancy owning one, you can find a selection here from £3k to £25k. (For some inexplicable reason Jaguar revived the S-Type name for a model made from 1999 to 2007, so make sure you get the right one – I can’t vouch for the criminal credentials of the later version.)

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