Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Great Legs

They're always special, those close encounters, those moments when a wild bird wonders almost beneath your nose in complete obliviousness to a threat that you don't actually pose. This Redshank toddled metres below a hide at our much visited patch of late, Carsington Reservoir.

Redshank will forever be on my list of probable favourite birds. I could never choose just one species, but the unassuming grace of these waders makes them a certain contender.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Big Garden Birdwatch: My Results

We scored a pretty usual spread for our garden during our hour, although a surge in Blackbirds seems to have coincided with the berries on our pyracantha coming into maturity. Quite a relief really, as we rarely saw even one during the summer (around the same time the new neighbours next door brought their cat into our little ecosystem).
A Sparrowhawk circled over at one point and everything panicked. We sat for half an hour before any birds returned. If we do have a star bird, it's probably our pair of Stock Dove, although only the one showed up for our count.

Our results read:

6 Blackbird
5 Collard Dove
1 Feral Pigeon
1 Stock Dove
2 Blue Tit
10 House Sparrow
1 Dunnock

We'd surely have more if it weren't for the fact that our suburb is only 25 years old, so there are very few mature trees around.

(Big Garden Birdwatch)

Starling Roost!

There are few more common garden birds in Britain than the Starling, so what's to get excited about? Try a flock somewhere in the 100,000 range, twisting and contorting in unimaginable formations as they gather to their roost. They begin in the hundreds, a few different flocks scurrying from different directions, and this continues for fifteen minutes until you suddenly begin to realise they've become not flocks but waves, not of hundreds or thousands, but tens of thousands of individuals all following the same enormous plan - to stay in amidst the writhing torrent of birds until at some predestined or perhaps telepathic point they decide to land en masse, thus evading any dazzled predators patrolling the vicinity.
Some of them came down into trees just 10 or 15 yards away from us, dropping like stones, sounding almost like rifle fire.

Video 1 - Kirk Ireton Starling Roost
Video 2 - Kirk Ireton Starling Roost
Video 3 - Kirk Ireton Starling Roost
Video 4 - Kirk Ireton Starling Roost

I'd always wanted to view this spectacle and I'm really truly thrilled to have actually found it. It's peaceful like waves crashing along the shore, it's artistic - an animated, emoting sculpture across the whole sky, and above all it's just bloody big nature!
Alas it's not easy to photograph or video, especially with mid-range digital cameras, so here's Bill Oddie's memorable version filmed for his BBC series. Well worth a view any day of the week.

Of course with these numbers of birds flying overhead, there's always likely to be one drawback.