Country Smallholding - - Feature Waterfowl -

MANY PEO­PLE keep birds as a low-key pas­time rather than a pro­fes­sion, writes Morag Jones. A flock of hy­brid ducks are as good as any for slug con­trol in the veg­etable patch. Any white farm­yard goose will stand his ground and an­nounce vis­i­tors with aplomb. No one needs to know his an­ces­try for him to do that. But it is pos­si­ble to take a step back and con­sider lineage more care­fully. Preser­va­tion comes in many guises and all pure breed en­thu­si­asts are play­ing their part, even some­times un­wit­tingly, as am­bas­sadors for wa­ter­fowl.

This is where friend­ship comes in — like those ex­pe­ri­enced by Jackie Jarvis Waller. A life on the land can be a lonely ex­is­tence, graft­ing dur­ing day­light hours tend­ing to the hold­ing and the live­stock. With that in mind, how many peo­ple have the lux­ury of time to search out the right stock for the hum­ble duck or goose?

I be­lieve that most do, and hav­ing a net­work of like-minded friends makes it pos­si­ble. Within the Bri­tish Wa­ter­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion (BWA) there are en­thu­si­asts for ev­ery breed and species you can think of. So whether you are con­sid­er­ing hav­ing wa­ter­fowl for the first time or are think­ing of keep­ing a dif­fer­ent breed, there will be some­one out there who can help out.

Anne Ter­rell, who came to the res­cue of Jackie’s birds in a time of cri­sis, did so know­ing that her only re­ward would be grat­i­tude. At the time, Anne was re­search­ing and writ­ing a book. The friend­ship of other duck en­thu­si­asts com­pleted her own cir­cle — their help was in­valu­able. Call and Other Ban­tam

Ducks by Anne Ter­rell, Ian Kay and Chris Ash­ton, first pub­lished in 1998, is still avail­able to buy to­day.

The Bre­con Buffs that Jackie keeps are one of the few goose breeds orig­i­nat­ing in Bri­tain and their ini­tial de­vel­op­ment is well doc­u­mented. In 1929 in an area of the Bre­con Bea­cons, Rhys Llewellyn no­ticed buff ‘sports’ among a flock of grey and white geese. From one of those fe­males, crossed with an Emb­den gan­der, he ob­tained prog­eny that were all grey. A gan­der from that hatch was kept back and, in 1930, was mated with two buff fe­males from else­where. Sev­eral buff goslings were pro­duced and by 1933 the Bre­con geese were breed­ing 70% true to type and colour. By 1934 this had risen to 100% and the ‘stan­dard’ was first pub­lished in The Feath­ered

World that year. Weigh­ing in be­tween 6-9kg, it is classed as a medium weight goose. The Bre­con Buff is slightly up­right, alert and ac­tive. It is also classed as a pri­or­ity breed by the Rare Breeds Sur­vival Trust on its 2018/19 Watch­list, so they are geese who def­i­nitely need friends.

If you would like ad­vice on the qual­i­ties and prac­ti­cal­i­ties of do­mes­tic wa­ter­fowl, the BWA would love to help. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.wa­ter­

Morag Jones is pres­i­dent of the Bri­tish Wa­ter­fowl As­so­ci­a­tion and editor of Mag­a­zine.

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