Saturday, 24 January 2009

Beautiful birds at the WI

January meeting
Old Buckenham’s first meeting of 2009 began on rather a sad note as they heard of the recent death of Brenda Yates who had been a stalwart and committed member of the WI for 28 years. Her lively interest in all the WI activities are sadly missed.
For the first meeting of 2009, Old Buckenham WI were entertained by a talk given by Quinton Spratt who owns and runs the largest and only peafowl rearing business in England on his farm at nearby Forncett. Members heard how he had been fascinated by these birds from the age of eight, when his father had brought home a pair of peafowl eggs. These hatched successfully and thus started a lifelong interest in these proud exotic birds with their shimmering plumage. Over the years, as farmers were encouraged to diversify, Quinton saw that what had been a hobby could become a business and an unusual one at that.
This has led to a large enterprise, with between 1000 and 2000 birds being raised each year. Birds are exported as far afield as Europe and America, as well as all over England. It was a surprise to hear that he gets requests for birds to appear on film sets. He also gets asked for pairs of birds to strut around large country gardens and estates, although the urban fox population has cut down peacock numbers here.
Peacocks lay from April to the end of September – at dusk – which makes collecting the eggs tricky. The eggs are put under hens to hatch or into incubators. Those gorgeous tail feathers moult every year. Peafowl do not like rain but have few health problems, just sinusitis. They are only noisy during the mating season and are very stress-free birds, not objecting to being handled and boxed-up when travelling. Of the three main varieties, all from the Far East originally, the Javan Green is the rarest with the peahen being just as brightly coloured as the peacock (though without his glorious tail). The Javan Green were until recently on the endangered species list but Quinton has managed to hatch enough of their eggs to be able to send some back to their homeland in Indonesia where it is hoped they will re-establish themselves. The speaker’s interest and enthusiasm was very evident in his talk and he gave all those present a lovely peacock’s tail feather as a memento of a very enjoyable talk.
After the talk Gill Freitag gave a resume of the recent Resolutions Day and reported that the Norfolk resolution for National Conference was to be the one deploring the proposed polyclinics and the effect they would have on rural GP practices. Members are also beginning to think about ideas for the Federation Chairman’s Challenge and how best to rise to this challenge. Other business included details of the visit to see West Side Story at the Theatre Royal and arrangements for a walk the following day with both heavy rain and a gale forecast (but WI walkers are tough and it is reported that they managed their trek and that the meal afterwards was both welcome and warming). Plans were also made for the Federation AGM in March which will mean digging out the hat boxes as ‘hats will be worn’. Perhaps some peacock feathers might come in handy?

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