RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Cock o’ the walk was no match for a wily fox...

This was Snowdrop wandering among the February Fairmaids.

He was a very handsome bird. Just look at that white collar and the little snowdrops on his back.

He was full of fight and challenged every other pheasant in the woods just as it was getting too dark for any of them to see him.

His call was like a bugler setting the wild echoes ringing.

Then he would go happily to bed in his ivy bower on the oak, satisfied that he was cock o’ the walk.

But in the morning he had a problem. His spurs were tiny, no more than warts. These are the weapons cock pheasants use to strike each other’s necks, and hopefully disable an opponent.

Poachers of old used to fix metal spurs as sharp as needles to a gamecock’s legs then secretly release the bird near a cock pheasant when the quarry would be struck in the neck and killed.

Another problem for Snowdrop was that the feed bins were out of his territory.

They were dominated by bands of bully-boys: birds that were more senior and had the spurs of cavalry officers.

He would make brave charges through the crowds and pick up no more than a grain of wheat.

So he took to feeding out of my hand. He became a dandy then, strutting like a hero in front of the hen pheasants in the garden.

With the shooting season over, and having survived the fusillades of number seven shot, Snowdrop threw all caution to the winds and strutted safely, so he thought, along his own little catwalk.

I should have known better than to tame him, as I did the robin, the great tit, the dunnock, and the nuthatch.

I found a circle of bright feathers in the dew one morning.

Snowdrop had just not seen the fox coming. But at least I had taken a decent enough photograph of him.

He was not quite pure Phasianus torquatus, but near enough. He should technically have had a green shade of feathers on his back and no white on his head.

In 1880 the naturalists Swinhoe, Saurin, and Pere David all agreed that P torquatus was the most common species in China at that time.

This is the country of Snowdrop’s ancestors. In those days, many thousands were shot and brought down to the Peking markets. Formosa was said to swarm with them. Asian countries both revered the pheasant family and destroyed them on an industrial scale, rather as the Americans did for the bald eagle, their national emblem.

You may remember how in 2013, The Dear Leader had cages set up near the rocket launch sites of his ballistic missiles in which were species of pheasant, a kind of iconic representation of North Korean link to the past glories of Taoist thought where the fine plumage of cock pheasants was a sacred emblem of the life on planet Earth.

Wild pheasants were the angels, the ‘hsien’, able to break mortal bounds and take flight, into the clouds, and ‘drive the flying dragon’ which today is a rocket.

Snowdrop and others like him at least survive happily in this country while supporting a rural economy at the same time, even though it is a short but glorious life.