Tag Archives: birds

Beside the Thames

cormorant

Last Autumn I wrote about a walk along the Thames near Richmond, with Belted Galloway cattle near the end of it. Today I walked from Waterloo to Lambeth beside a river confined by embankments, with light shipping passing by the Palace of Westminster and cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers and tourists in both directions along the path, not all looking where they were going.

One thing I was hoping to see, but only saw when I wasn’t looking for it – a cormorant. Picture this, if you will, flying past the Houses of Parliament; I was on the opposite bank.

In my youth anyone falling in the River might have died from poisoning. They even kept my little brother in hospital for observation after he fell into the Serpentine Lake in the park (and I had to go home on the bus in wet clothes after dragging him out).

There must be enough fish in the river to satisfy those greedy cormorants.

When my mother and I visited my brother in hospital on the following Friday he was happy to say goodbye. Dinner had arrived – fish and chips and it looked really tasty! He’s still very fond of fish and there are even herons along the Serpentine these days.

RSPB image, see: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/c/cormorant/index.aspx

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After the rain

2.00 p.m.: it was the summer storm we’d been waiting for, though not predicted by this morning’s weather forecast. A good 25mm, 1” of drain-blocking rain in an hour. Before I tackled that little job (and I would have waited for Abel, had I known he was almost on the doorstep) I looked out of the back door.

The rain had ceased. Movement in the apricot tree: a song thrush decided it was time to dry herself off. An all over shake; spreading first the left wing, then the right, preening each with her bill; fanning the tail and giving that a good shake, followed by a dance move no human could copy: head thrust forward and down, feathers all fluffed, then three or four undulations from head to tail. That did the job! Satisfied, she preened herself once more and flew away.

I’ve seen few thrushes in our garden over the past few years. It was an extra pleasure to witness this intimate moment in her life.

bbc.video of thrush

 

Steals on the ear…

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Rainbow weather this morning: the birds seem to sing more clearly in the rain.

When we were in Rome at the beginning of last month, Mrs T rejoiced to hear a cuckoo in the Botanical Gardens; I was uplifted by the sight and sound of a patrol of swifts, screaming along the Via Aurelia.

It was a month before I saw and heard the swifts in Canterbury, and only this morning, at six o’clock, did I hear the cuckoo. He may have been some distance away, as even with the back door open I could not hear him an hour and a half later.

But he was there, insistently, when the city was quiet. Perhaps he did not care to compete with the Cathedral’s great bell Dunstan, calling the faithful to prayer!

No time to stop and stare?

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I’d guess that WH Davies had a reason for calling his most familiar poem ‘Leisure’. Although it has been holiday time the days and evenings have been full, yet there have been moments, every day, to stop and stare: yesterday to marvel at a thrush singing each song twice over, and to hear how he had orchestrated a vehicle reversing alarm and a common telephone ring into his song. That fulfilled this verse:

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

And coming down Abbot’s Hill the other day, I saw a squirrel digging for nuts, which recalls:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

Bring Spring on! Here’s the poem:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Soon ragged robin will be in flower. Magdalene, Cambridge.

 

 

Silence amid the Noise.

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Between 7.30 and 9.00 in the morning must be the noisiest time of day but most people have to filter out the noise, just to do what we have to. Young Abel often draws our attention to sirens, trains and loud machinery, but I did not need his advice this morning.

The Builder’s dog is with us and needed his morning walk. Today he was sniffling round a shrub when I heard a woodpecker drumming somewhere nearby. Not that I saw him, but it’s a pleasure to hear him. Trying to place him – somewhere in the treetops – without binoculars was futile, but it made me aware of the din around me, even though I was some yards from the nearest road. The school playing field was being mown with a tractor and a mower; the main roads and inner ring road were still very busy, but a motorbike and ambulance stood out. There were trains and planes, and children winding down to go indoors for the morning.

But I could still hear the woodpecker. And the chaffinch and the blackcap … and the herring gulls and rooks overhead.

Sometimes we must dive into whatever silence is around, even if no-one else can hear it, even if only for a moment.

Just a moment!

There are moments – split seconds – worth recording in memory that one could never on camera. One such was given to me yesterday, walking home from church alongside a hedgerow. Up to the surface popped what some call a dunnock but I still think of as a hedge-sparrow. All resplendent in best spring plumage, it had in its bill a down feather from a pigeon.

And then we parted.

Those eggs will be cosy, the chicks warm and snug till they grow their own feathers, then off and away!

Steve Childshttps://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_childs/8665114609/

 

 

A tale of two birds – or rather three.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d7/Stonechat_%28Saxicola_rubicola%29_male%2C_Beaulieu%2C_Hampshire.jpg/640px-Stonechat_%28Saxicola_rubicola%29_male%2C_Beaulieu%2C_Hampshire.jpg

The scattering of white feathers showed where a black-headed gull had been killed; the corpse lay a couple of feet away, the breast picked almost clean by the second bird, the sparrowhawk who has become quite familiar in this part of town. Satisfied with its meal, it had flown away already.

The third bird was totally unconcerned by this drama, and a real surprise on Abbot’s Hill. Sitting on a stump nearby: a smart, robin-like creature which was indeed a stonechat. I don’t recall seeing one locally before but he was singing as if he owned the place and had no intention of going west to the old brown hills. I feel sure he will though.

It’s a warm wind, the west wind, full of birds’ cries;
I never hear the west wind but tears are in my eyes.
For it comes from the west lands, the old brown hills.
And April’s in the west wind, and daffodils.

The West Wind, John Masefield.

stonechat