birds

Pond news

I spent much of the weekend roaming the little flat like a caged jagular, hoping the rain would cease. Eventually it did and I wandered down to the pond to check up on the inhabitants.

I did not see the cootlets, but Mr & Mrs Canada Geese have had five super little goslings! They are all fluffy and yellow with little crew-cuts like Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead. It was quite funny as their Mum was teaching them to swim by cruising purposefully from one side of the pond to the other, then it was time for dabbling lessons and ‘investigating mysterious strangers for food’ 101. I did not have any unfortunately but I did gaze enraptured at the goslings.

I saw Henrietta the duck, but she did not have any ducklings. I am a bit worried that she seems to have lost her mate, as I have not seen Henry in quite a while. It must be awful lonely if you are a solo duck while everyone else is busy nesting and fledging. I have not seen any other farm ducks on the river otherwise I might introduce them to Henrietta. I cannot resist a bit of matchmaking.

Anyway I was strolling happily through the woods enjoying the heady perfume of spring flowers and the clean smell of rain, and trying to think of a poetic simile for what it smells like, but I could only think of Comfort fabric conditioner.

A Bird came down the Walk

A Bird came down the Walk—
He did not know I saw—
He bit an angle-worm in halves
And ate the fellow, raw,

And then he drank a Dew
From a convenient Grass,
And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
To let a Beetle pass—

He glanced with rapid eyes
That hurried all abroad—
They looked like frightened Beads, I thought—
He stirred his velvet head

Like one in danger, Cautious,
I offered him a Crumb,
And he unrolled his feathers
And rowed him softer home—

Than Oars divide the Ocean,
Too silver for a seam—
Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon,
Leap, plashless as they swim.

—Emily Dickinson

I am damn unsatisfied to be killed in this way

I have had a nice relaxing day chomping bacon, reading Hikaru No Go and listening to Julian Gray & Ronald Pearl’s Baroque Inventions. In between times I am also reading Richard Fortey’s The Earth: An Intimate History, and plotting the delicious curry I will be making later.

So it is a good day all around really. Also, more songs from the Archway Guitar Quartet:

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

Tits!

It is a cheap joke I know

This blue tit was having a bath in the little pond. Splish, splash!

Meanwhile his friend watches nervously in case the attendant comes to tell them off for bombing.

There was a large flock of these great tits swooping around, chirping and gossiping in various trees, but this was the only one brave enough to come near me when I was sitting by the pond. This is the hardest bird that the others are all afraid of, a bit like Ross Kemp out of East Enders.

Plymouth, Citie of Onne Thousand Surprises

Drake’s Island and Plymouth Sound

Old and new buildings jostle together in Plymouth, Citie of Onne Thousand Surprises!

The war memorial on Plymouth Hoe

Disaffected gulls hanging out at the Barbican

Fluffy pub cat at the Rashleigh, Polkerris (not near Plymouth, but it is nice)

Enjoying a pint at Polkerris and watching the sun set over St Austell Bay

Eden 4

The Welsh Harp

I’nt birds brilliant?