birds

Bird feeder excitemint

I have got a bird feeder! I went up to the Welsh Harp reservoir to fly my kites today and popped into the super garden centre they have there, with a little cafe and everything. They have got a massive bird care section, with every type of feeder and bird bath and computerised electronic jet-wash where you put 10p in the slot and huge soapy rollers come out and scrub the bird clean from top to bottom, and then give it a coat of wax. Actually no that last bit was a dream.

Anyway I got a little bird feeder that sticks on to your window with suckers, because I do not have a garden sadly. So now I am sitting waiting for some birds to come and investergate the food that I have put in it. There is a choice of chef’s specials including a mix of exotic seeds, and some lovely fat out of the grill. If there was a bird Michelin guide my establishment ought to have at least three crossed knives and forks. Anyway I am trying not to get too excited because apparently it can take up to a month for any birds to notice that you have a feeder there.

I had another super walk along the brook the other day and noticed some pretty amazing birds! They are Mandarins. They are quite rare I think as there are only about 1,000 pairs in Britain. It is also a symbol of happiness in China where it comes from. So that has cheered me up!

It was a nice day at the reservoir flying kites, except unfortunately I managed to break a leading-edge spar on my Matrix. Carbon fibre is terrific stuff, until it breaks into about a million little sharp pieces, luckily it did not poke a hole in the sail, but I nearly got a big splinter of it stuck in my finger. So now I need a handy source for Skyshark Competition Airframe 5P which ideally would not cost any money.

I brought my fighter kites as well but it was really a bit too windy for paper kites, so I flew my brilliant little MAC ripstop fighter which is very fast and twitchy like a racing motorcycle, except it can survive being piled into the ground at high speed unlike a motorcycle. Hurray for the return of kite flying season!

On the way back I sat by the lake bathed in golden evening sunlight and watching various coots, ducks, geese and swans ekcetera. There was an Indian family there with possibly the two cutest little girls ever, who were very excited about the birds, and one little girl was totally amazed by the swan and kept trying to reach towards it and touch it. She was pretty much in love with the swan! I thought that was brilliant. I love it when kids get excited about things because they have never seen whatever it is before so they are not bored and jaded like most grown ups.

In conclusion then, it is a wizzo world.

Animals

A cheeky robin. It is not the one that lives at Henrietta’s Pond, whom I call Reginald, but a little way further along the brook. I do not know how big a robin’s territory is so it might be Reginald’s next door neighbour. I will call him Richard.

This is Henrietta the Pekin duck who is the undisputed boss of the pond. You can see her cruising majestically around with various of her subjects tagging along in her wake, and she often hangs about (as here) with Martin, the mallard drake. I do not know what his wife Martina thinks about it, but she is probably too scared to take on Henrietta, who is quite aggressive and once tried to eat my shoes.

Generally if a squirrel realises it’s been spotted it will freeze quite still and hope that you don’t notice it. This one is doing a semi-convincing impersonation of a twig.

One of the pair of Canada geese who have just returned from winter holidays. They are big, big birds, you have to get up close to them to realise. I was trying to take some photos of the coots and moorhens, and the geese kept coming up and menacing me for food. Everyone has heard the saying that a swan could break your arm; I think one of these could give you a nasty Chinese burn if it had a mind to.

Blue tits are very pretty, and it is great to see them flitting and fluttering from branch to branch in the golden spring sunshine. Their song seems curiously inappropriate though, as it sounds like Butt-Head laughing.

The life of keithlard

I took the camera out for a wander to try and get lots of pictures of WILDLIFE ekcetera. I was a bit glum at first as I did not really get anything much, it is very hard taking pictures of birds especially, as they keep moving around and flying off. So I spent a lot of time hanging around suspiciously in the woods.

It was a beautiful day though and it was nice sitting quietly in the sunshine by the river watching blue tits fluttering around and listening to woodpeckers. It is awful hard to identify little songbirds as they tend to be (a) quite small, and (b) very good at not being seen. So it is bird listening rather than bird watching, I am trying to learn what all the different birds’ songs and calls are.

One thing I learned from watching David Attenborough’s wizzo series The Life of Birds is that birdsong actually means something, and they are not just messing about and jamming. Generally a male bird sings for the same reason that you do when using a public lavatory where the door doesn’t lock properly: to say ‘Hey I am here and occupying this territory, keep out!’

Birds tend to stick to their patch of territory and they will know their neighbours. If one day they don’t hear a neighbour singing, it is a good sign that he has died or flown away, and the territory is ripe for takeover. So the song is also like the Soviets rolling hundreds of tanks through Red Square every year: it is saying ‘I am strong and powerful, do not mess around with me or you will regret it.’

At breeding time it also attracts females of course, and the louder and more varied and impressive your song, the more of a chick magnet you are. It means ‘I am so genetically well-endowed that I can waste precious resources sitting here warbling all day long’, in much the same way that a ridiculously expensive and oversized SUV asserts your status as a human being.

So it is all very interesting and the more you sit in the woods and listen the more different types of songs and calls you realise there are. It would be good if there was a Michel Thomas course on bird songs.

In the end though I got lots of great photos (coming soon!) and returned home in time for a snack before zooming out again to a meeting of the Finchley Guitar Trio (it is now the Archway Guitar Quartet as Matt’s housemate Chris has now joined us on mandolin). So much musical fun was had by all (MP3s coming soon once I’ve edited them to cut out the mistakes and laughing).

Then when I got home I made and ate delicious home made samosas!

It does not get any better than that really.

Photo by Jim Higham