What is bothering this ewe?
Apparently in early labour, suddenly she sniffs the air and looks up into the trees. She is completely distracted from the job in hand and agitated — whatever it is, she does not like it!
Circling above her is a large bird of prey — a buzzard, it wants a really good look at her. Like the magpies that bounce (half flying, half jumping) around the nearby pasture, he is interested in the cleansings (placenta and membranes) and they seem to sense a ewe in labour from miles away. In fact this one has taken up residence in the stand of mature oak trees just above the pasture which gives him prior claim — or so he thinks, the crows and magpies think differently.
He swoops low ‘buzzing’ our ewe.
Then he perches in the tall hedge to watch her — and waits. She can’t settle.
Sheep in labour are very vulnerable and with any threat their contractions will cease for a time. I don’t think that a buzzard, or indeed a domestic cat, is much of a threat to an adult sheep or a healthy lamb but there is something in their primitive background that responds to the shadow of a hawk, the shape of a cat and of course the bark of a dog that really upsets them at lambing time. Dog walkers should bear this in mind because even the best behaved dog on a lead, can spook a ewe whose labour may become prolonged so that her lamb dies or, if she is beyond the point of no return , she may drop the lamb and run.
We like to see the birds of prey — we were very excited when we thought we saw an osprey recently, so are reluctant to chase them away. Anyway, while I was wrestling with this dilemma this buzzard got bored waiting and flew off.
The ewe slumped immediately to the ground and finished the job.
I am not a buzzard or a cat and she let me approach to help her with the first lamb and soon she had two beautiful, tall, strong lambs running at foot, one male and one female.