A pheasant place to be
Saturday 13th October 2012, 10:00AM BST.
MOST people like to bring a little memento of home when they move somewhere new.
And when Barbara Smethurst relocated from rural Lincolnshire to Alderney in the mid ’70s, she wasn’t any different.
Except that one of the things the Canadian-born mother of two decided to bring to her new home was 25 pheasant eggs. She incubated them and let the hatchlings free and there are now thought to be at least 100 pheasants in Alderney.
Her son Ian was sworn to secrecy about the escapade until after his mother’s death.
She died in September aged 96 and last Saturday Ian, who lives in Guernsey, returned to the island for a memorial service in honour of his mother.
His mother and father had been the first people to bring broad-breasted white turkey eggs to the UK, hatch them and deliver them to farms – now, thanks to the likes of Bernard Manning, they are a common foodstuff.
Ian explained how his mother had been a keen gardener in Lincolnshire and used to see pheasants wandering across the lawn. ‘She liked them; so did I. When my parents moved to Alderney in summer 1976 she didn’t think there was enough wildlife here and thought it would be nice to see pheasants. The following spring she got a friend from Lincolnshire to bring across 25 pheasant eggs in his luggage to Alderney.’
The eggs were put in a box underneath the stairs with a light bulb on top keeping them warm, until, after about three weeks, about 14 of them hatched. Ian, who was in his 20s and also living in Alderney, helped his mother and his brother, Peter, release the chicks into bracken near the island lighthouse.
‘It was quite exciting at the time,’ said Ian. ‘Just the four of us knew about them.
‘We never told anybody and my mum didn’t want us to until after her death.
‘I don’t think my mum wanted to tell anybody because she didn’t want to get into trouble. We didn’t know whether you were allowed to import pheasants into Alderney so we didn’t say anything. But it was something my mother wanted to do, so she did.’
Some residents had mixed feelings about the introduction of pheasants onto the island. The creature is native to the Caucasus and was introduced to Britain as a game bird.
Gardener Alfred Gaudion reported how his land was ‘stripped’ of produce by around 20 pheasants several years ago.
And James Allison, Alderney Wildlife Trust ecologist, said: ‘We would not encourage anyone to introduce new animals onto the island because of the impact it could have on native species.’