14 Dec Christmas Tree ‘Oh’ Christmas Tree.
Tradition … a part of so many family Christmas’s.
It has always been our tradition here at The Gearach to cut and give Christmas trees to Port Charlotte Primary School and the local Care Home. This year the cutting of the trees seemed even more Special as all of the usual festive activities are cancelled, so the trees will be the only festive normality for the children and Islay elderly residence.
We cut the trees on 30th November each year & deliver them to the school and care home. It heralds the start of our winter season. It is an exciting time, the anticipation is tangible, our Gearach Woodcock Hunting Team “the dogs” are getting excited, the frosty mornings bring a crisp clean feel to the forestry… the woodcock are arriving.
The night sky has been lit by another Full Moon on 30th November. It is known as the Beaver Moon because it occurs during the time of year when Beavers begin to take shelter in their dams.
These luminary signals the time when the seasons shift, and we begin to prep for the winter.
We have been reducing our time spent in the forestry. Walking and exercising the dogs is now more frequent shorter walks rather than long walks, this is to enable the woodcock to feed and rest undisturbed. The dogs have been putting up woodcock for several weeks now whilst we have been out walking, so despite the dogs being delighted to flush the woodcock, it is now all about letting them rest and feed in peace.
We are now feeding the geese & ducks that arrive on our Loch. We use 20kg sacks of barley as it lasts longer in the water without decaying. It is more palatable when it is soaked. We have several species of ducks making our Loch home. Mallard, tufted, Greenland teal, widgeon, and goldeneye. We can hear them all on a quiet, not windy day, chattering away, up to 3-400 birds bobbing about on our Loch at one time.
Part of our ongoing forestry management plan is to keep the trees brashed back to ensure that we keep on maintaining the fire checks and rides. Woodcock use the rides and clearings to fly in & out of the Gearach forest to feed. We are extremely fortunate that the open farmland that surrounds our forestry has cattle grazing on it. The woodcock love the cow pats, they feed on the Islay worms through the cow pats… that is why you will see cow pats on Islay with little holes in them, where the woodcock have out their beaks.
In some parts our forestry has a thicker canopy which suits the woodcock as they are ground nesting. They cannot be easily spotted from the air by birds of prey or corvids. We do not have any foxes on Islay so they can breed in relative safety.
We Never shoot woodcock in November and only the 3rd week in December. We have never hosted a Sporting Break here that does not comply to this policy. Even though the dates we have available do not suit potential client’s calendars, we do not bend our policy rules and give in to client pressure.
We have lived here in The Gearach Forest for 18 years now, the research done by GWCT shows that our policy falls directly in line with their suggestions for woodcock shooting. We do not overshoot our ground to make more money, this is not what we do. We offer clients Gearach Sporting Breaks which after 20 successful years and counting means that we are doing something right.
Conservation, Conservation, Conservation is our policy – the woodcock are here in high numbers because of the way that we operate our business.