The lambs came in two by two …

Hallelujah! Our first lambs have arrived! We have been doing nightly and early morning checks for almost a week, of course they arrived early on the day we arrived late!

Nancy was the first to have her twins, we were expecting to have some issues with the three younger girls as they were originally orphans and bottle fed so we were unsure if they would have the mothering instinct as this is their first year in lamb, however she was up and eating and all seemed well.

Nora also had a lamb at foot, and by the time we got down to her it looked like another was heading out with its nose just starting to appear.

A few tense minutes later and we realised the lamb wasnt moving. We had a closer look and the lamb was coming out with one hoof stuck backwards so we had to intervene quickly otherwise both mother and lamb could be at risk. Eventually with a bit of panic, pulling and choice words the lamb came out breathing, happy and healthy. Thankfully a local farmer came over to lend a hand and gave them a quick once over, giving us a few tips along the way.

Once the shock and celebration of birthing Noras final lamb were over, we returned to Nancy. The lamb still covered in blood in the picture above was much weaker than his sister, it wasnt until a little while later that we realised she had rejected the lamb. Apparently a common occurance is for the weaker boys to be rejected by their mother. We moved Nancy with her twins to a stable to try and let the weaker lamb dry out and give her time to bond.

She was showing all the mothering signs to the larger girl but unfortunately became really agressive towards the weaker little lamb, headbutting him around the stable, snapping and growling whenever he went near trying to feed. We managed to hold Nancy in place and get the young one to nurse and have at least some of the essential colostrum to get him going. We thought it was going to be more long nights bottle feeding at this point, however by chance we came across someone whose ewe had lost their lamb this same morning and they were looking for an orphan to use as surrogate as their ewe was trying to steal the other lambs away from the mothers.

Cue a roadtrip for little Bruno as he was now named.

We didn’t get any photos of him bonding with the surrogate, but we got an update later in the day and he seems to be feeding from her. So fingers crossed we hope all works out for the little guy.

We returned Nancy to the rest of the flock with her remaining lamb and so far she seems to have accepted that she is now a mother.

We have 4 ewes to go, and we’re praying the hard part is now over!

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The mysterious disapperance of Mary Berry

We had a rather unwelcome visitor over the last couple of days. We weren’t entirely sure what it was, but some creature in the night was taking our chickens, including our beloved Mary Berry and leaving them headless. Our first clue was a five fingered footprint and some bite marks on a survivor of the attack.

We’ve seen a mink roaming around close to the chicken coop a couple of times, we always thought it was just stealing the eggs. These have 5 toes and do attack chickens, apparently they like to drink the blood like vampires. We didn’t know how it was getting in the coup so we set our trail camera up.

Instead of a mink, of course it was a plain old fox.

We can’t be too angry at mr (or mrs) fox, they’re only trying to find food to feed themselves or their young. But hopefully we’ve secured the coop so he wont be returning anytime soon.

A Kingfishers Tale

There is a kingfisher nesting site along this section of the river Wharfe. The lightning blue flashes of this beautiful bird can often be spotted heading up and down the river bank anywhere between the bridge at Linton and the footbridge crossing on the Collingham to Wetherby footpath.

Each year the nest gets washed away by the winter floods, and each year the birds return to rebuild their home in the bank. I often wonder if they ever think of moving home to a safer place, or maybe they just like the fresh start each year.

Unfortunately our wildlife photography skills leave something to be desired, so if anyone has been able to capture sightings of these birds we would love to feature them.

Along with the kingfisher’s nest, the yearly floods erode large sections of the bank, undercutting and taking close to 1m at a time. It’s a constant reminder that although the river and it’s water is a great source of life, it’s also an incredibly destructive force. This ‘Ying and Yang’, the good and the bad, the light and the dark is a theme found throughout nature and the universe. 

Working with animals and nature is a constant reminder of this balance. The joys of birth, new lambs, baby chicks, budding leaves, the opening of flowers all slowly give way to dealing with the inevitable demise from old age, the sacrifice of one life to provide sustenance for another or through the destruction from nature itself.

When Harry met … Carrie?

Welcome our newest member of the flock. Harry the Herdwick! He’s only 7 months old so is still quite young as a ram, but we’re hoping he’ll do his job with our ewes this year. As he gets older his chocolate coloured fleece will fade to a majestic grey, hopefully complemented by some stylish horns.

The ewes pictured here (Carrie, Annie and Fannie) with the black heads are part Herdwick themselves, owing to their thick legs and sturdy hooves. Crossing with a Suffolk breed gives the distinctive black faces. It will be interesting come April to see what genetics our lambs take on.

Suffolk’s being a meat breed are known for having large lambs with big heads. During lambing in previous years this meant hand delivering those that got stuck. Herdwicks on the other hand living out in the fells of the Lake District are supposed to give birth by themselves quite easily.

Fingers crossed for the beginning of April 🤞🐑

Wetherby Whalers Explorer Scouts

We would just like to say a massive thank you to this amazing team of young people who came to help restore the riverside footpath to its former glory. Shown on maps since at least the 1850’s this footpath linked St Oswalds church at Collingham to Wetherby. Heavy flooding in recent years however, meant the old footpath had become blocked and littered with fallen branches, downed fences and had generally just fallen into a state of disrepair. The explorer scouts came to the rescue and dedicated an evening of their time clearing the overgrown bushes and marking out the old walkway. This now means locals and visitors of the area can access the old walking route and view much more wildlife along the riverbanks. Some species you can see along this section of the river include otters, kingfishers, little egret, heron, goshawks, buzzards, red kites, sparrowhawks and kestrels. If anyone has any wildlife images along this section of the river they would like to share we would love to hear from you.

Coronation … chickens?

What a wonderful afteroon! It was great to hear Collingham band play and see the Glebe field come alive during the coronation weekend. Free cake! Bell ringing! Flower arranging and face painting! What’s not to love! Naturally our chicks and lambs had to come along and join in the picnic festivities.

September 2022

Welcome back! We hope everyone has had an amazing summer! I think we can all tell the seasons are starting to change, the darker mornings, the cool breeze and the damp drizzle. Summer might be over but I think nature tries to ease us gently into the autumn months with the bounty of fruits. What better way to start the term than an apple and blackberry crumble with heaps of custard!

May 2022

Tomorrow marks the start of June and I’ve just realised we havent had a single blog post yet this year! So here we are. We have the broody chickens patiently sitting on their eggs, we’ve already had a couple of chicks hatch but there are a good number of eggs left in their nests.

Our students also got their first hands on experience shearing sheep and bottle feeding lambs!

Looking back at 2021

What an amazing year we’ve had here at The Ark.

Last January we set ourselves the challenge of blogging our way through the year. Well we (mostly) made it and now we get to look back on all the fantastic things we got up to!

It doesn’t end here though! We have plenty of exciting new projects and hopefully a couple of new animals on the horizon. We cant wait to see what 2022 brings and we look forward to seeing you all in the new year!