I'd like to introduce a long standing friend of the family and resident of Toad Hall - Richard Cummerbund. Richard's great grandfather came to England in the late 1800's on the advice of a Mr Edmund Meade-Waldo, a gentleman ornithologist whom he had met on a bird watching expedition in Athens. Richard's ancestors settled in well at Stonewall Park, our neighbouring estate, probably due to the bountiful supply of juicy earthworms available in the great park.
Over the years a wonderful friendship and camaraderie developed between the generations that lived at Toad Hall and the neighbouring little owls. In fact Great Grandfather T indebted his life and the Toad Hall dynasty pretty much to Richard's great grandfather, swearing he would have surely been killed on the spot if it had not been for his brave, quick thinking new neighbour.
An enraged White Park Bull had managed to escape from Home Farm. Spotting the ornate red fabric tea tent Great Grandfather T had brought back from one of his trips to India, blowing about in the breeze, it came charging across the croquet lawn at full pelt to bring the tent to justice. Unfortunately Grandfather T was taking tea (a particularly nice drop of Assam, also discovered on a recent trip to India) in the tent at the time.
Having been enjoying the late afternoon sunshine from the ha-ha Richard's great grandfather, a wise and surprisingly fearless individual for one so small, (perhaps owed to experience gained during the Boer War), took note of the commotion and flew up and clung to the bulls horns with his little feathered feet. Turning his attention to dislodging the little bird the bull forgot all thoughts of tea tents and careered straight off the edge of the ha-ha into the park, where as a result of all the afternoons exertions he eventually calmed down. He was then swiftly caught up by one of the farm hands who led him away, followed by the very apologetic farmer who had been desperately trying to tread in all the diverts on the lawn.
As a thank you to this courageous little owl Grandfather T honoured him with the use of the family pew in the church, pick of the oak trees in the park, and a large chest of particularly good tea. He also had and effigy of a little owl included in the Toad Hall crest as a reminder to all his future generations of the debt of gratitude they owed this little bird.
Illustrators Note ~Little owls are so fun to illustrate because even though they are known to be very wise (so the Greek gods tell us) they can appear quite ridiculous when they are on the hunt for earthworms, sometimes even toppling over backwards in an attempt to extract one from the ground.
"Now That Is Interesting" Little owls hunting for earthworms. An illustrated print by Rebecca Day© available at www.toadhallcompany.co.uk
Sadly the UK’s Little Owl population is in rapid decline, with a current population size estimated to consist of only 5,700 breeding pairs. It is uncertain why there has been such a decline, but The Little Owl Project has been set up to find out. If you would like to help support the project visit www.littleowlproject.uk to find out more.