Hyperactive hummingbirds & battered sheep

The hummingbirds are back, and in greater numbers than ever. Dozens of these tiny animals, weighing just a few grams each, hovering, circling, pouncing, like tiny Soviet helicopter gunships.

Their targets are the two feeders we have hanging in the garden, one by the kitchen window, the other slightly further away.

And during peak hours, usually just before sunset, we can have 30, 40 or more all vying for the sugary nectar they need to sustain their high-energy lifestyles.

When they are exhausted they sit in lines on the fence of the vegetable garden, like commuters at a bus stop, catching their breath, calming their heart-rates, before rejoining the fray at the feeders.

Spring means other changes too. The river, which two months ago was so low that we walked across it, has once more become a rushing, throbbing behemoth.

After a low snow year we expected something milder and more moderate but two weeks of hot weather has brought the snow cascading down from high up the mountains and the water levels have risen dramatically.

For those of you who have been here in the summer or autumn, that calm almost translucent blue water has been transformed into a dark green tumult, snapping at our river bank and heaving down huge broken logs.

Spring, of course, brings with it the bears and this year has been no exception. Last weekend we held our regular bear guide training weekend, when we bring in an outside expert to make sure we are all up to date on the latest in bear biology, ecology and viewing techniques.

While out and about we watched one adult black bear for 20 minutes or so, first from the car, and then on foot, talking through his body language and the signs he was showing us.

This past week, has been a little slow, not helped by grizzly hunters crawling through the backwoods as they set out to fulfil the quotas allocated them by the BC government.

But we saw a total of five or six bears, even though some of them were very wary and skittish. Can’t blame them, I suppose, when every third or fourth car carries a gun with a telescopic sight.

There have been social developments in the valley too.

The most notable is the arrival of about five dozen sheep. Brought in by our neighbour, the redoubtable O’Shea (for those of you familiar with the story, the very same that once hosted the itinerant stallion) they have been doing what sheep do, eating grass.

Unfortunately Stephan has no meadow and so the sheep, clearly with the green stuff drawing them like bears to honey, piled into Sunny’s small and immaculately kept garden, eating everything they came across.

When Sunny discovered them, his habitually calm demeanour evaporated and, failing to scare them away, he took a .22 rifle to them. He missed with the rifle and became so angry that he waded into their midst swinging the gun like a baton.

In the ensuing chaos he managed to whack himself on the head, leaving a deep cut, and tear his hands on the sights of the gun he was holding. The final result: a bloody face, cut hands and one dead sheep.

When the surviving sheep had finally departed, Sunny dragged the deceased over to Stephan’s behind his car and dumped it in his yard, vowing that any more woolly intruders would meet the same fate.

And then he came around to our place, still steaming with anger. After he had calmed down we discussed the situation and agreed that battering a sheep with a rifle but was not going to be a long-term solution.

And so rummaging around in my cupboard I fished out an old paramilitary riot stick that I had half-inched after it was abandoned by a thug in Tbilisi during the Georgian revolution of 2003.

It is a brutal piece of equipment, basically a thick metal pipe, with a rope handle on one end. It was designed to maim and kill anti-government protestors and would certainly do the job against a sheep.

Now I am not one for killing animals, and Sunny too is usually a peaceful man, but needs must and so now Sunny is guarding against a return of the marauding flock with a stout piece of Georgian history in is hand.

Otherwise things have been fairly calm. This spring we concentrated our efforts on properly finishing the Volga cabin, which now has a smart, new wooden floor, upstairs and downstairs, and a new staircase.

We repainted the doors and the balcony which provided our first guests of the season with a ringside seat to watch the beautiful, torrential river.

We also now have the stable finished so, perhaps later in the year, I will be in market for a new horse.

This time I will try and find a calm old nag that won’t subject me to the same humiliations as Henry the psychopath, the grey I used to own.