Tag Archives: Nature

Garden Visitor, The Sparrowhawk

IMG_8942

When I put some nesting boxes in the garden I was hoping for a Robin or a Blue Tit!

The Sparrowhawk as well as being a magnificent bird is a ruthless killer and designed to hunt expertly from the air.  It tracks at great speed, darting out of cover with extreme dexterity combined with deadly accuracy to kill its prey.   It doesn’t hover, like the Kestrel or the Hawk, but relies on pace, momentum and surprise to catch its food and for this it is well designed with long slim legs, large sharp talons and a very efficient hooked beak that it uses for piercing and tearing up its prey.

The male Sparrowhawk was formerly called a musket, and the gun was named after the bird which perhaps gives a clue as to just how deadly they can be.  They are expert hunters and very fast fliers, and often make quick dashes over hedgerows or along the ground when chasing prey, which is often spectacularly captured using a downward plummet from the sky with closed wings.

Each adult Sparrowhawk will kill and consume a couple of small birds a day for themselves and when they are breeding a pair needs to catch another ten or so just to feed the chicks.  According to the RSPB there are forty thousand breeding pairs in the United Kingdom so by my calculation that is twenty thousand nests with an average of three chicks each so to feed themselves and their offspring this means three hundred thousand murders a day.  As Thomas Hobbes said in his philosophical treatise, Leviathan, ‘Life (in the state of nature) is nasty, brutish and short”.

Sparrowhawk kill 05

Scrap Book Project – British Birds, The Sparrow

Not exclusively British of course because they are found all over the World but according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds the population of house sparrows in Britain has fallen by nearly 70% in the past thirty years, it is rarely seen in London anymore and there are fewer in urban back gardens and this decline in numbers is now so serious that the sparrow is on the RSPB red list of conservation importance.

Their web site explains that the UK’s birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance – red, amber and green.  Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. Amber is the next most critical group, followed by green.  Also on the red list are the Thrush and the Starling but happily on the green list are the blackbird, the blue tit, the wren and the robin.

While watching the birds I noticed that some of the sparrows looked very different indeed and when I consulted my book of garden birds I realised that I hadn’t been paying enough attention to detail because there were three types of different bird that I had been generally referring to as sparrows and it turns out that one isn’t even a sparrow at all!  It’s a Dunnock!

First of all (picture 1) there is the tree sparrow, which is smaller than the more common house sparrow and quite different in appearance. It has a chestnut brown head and nape (rather than grey), and white cheeks and collar with a contrasting black cheek-spot.

It is on the red list and is only really found down the east of the country and not in Wales or the southwest at all.  I am really pleased to see them here because based on the Common Bird Census, there was a decline of 85% in numbers in Britain between the two breeding periods (1968-72 and 1988-91), which was the largest decline of any common species during this period.  Little is known about the factors affecting numbers of tree sparrows, but their recent decline has occurred at the same time as decreases in the numbers of other farmland birds which share its diet of grass, wild flower and cereal seeds, and also feed their young on insects and it is therefore possible that its decline is due to changing agricultural practices.

Next (picture 2) is the good old house sparrow which is much more numerous and found all over the British Isles.  They are noisy and gregarious and are cheerful and welcome visitors to the bird table and the feeders.  There may seem to a lot of house sparrows and their numbers are estimated at thirteen million, but the worrying fact is that thirty years ago there were twenty five million and the population in London has declined by a whopping 70%.  That’s something to be concerned about!

No one really knows why but some of the suggestions are that new house building methods and materials make it difficult for sparrows to find suitable nesting sites and the current fad for overly tidy gardens also takes away some of their natural habitat.  So I say forget about clinically tidy gardens and leave some wildlife friendly area in the garden and welcome the sparrow back!  I think the RSPB will agree with me.

Finally (picture 3), there is the Dunnock, which I am certain I must have seen before but am embarrassed to say that I have previously failed to identify him correctly.  He looks like a sparrow but he isn’t, even if sometimes he is referred to as the hedge sparrow.  It is a small brown and grey bird and quite quiet and unobtrusive with better manners than the squabbling sparrows, I have often seen it on its own, creeping along the edge of flower beds or amongst the shrubs, moving with a rather nervous, shuffling gait, often flicking its wings as it goes.  They are more edgy and aware than the sparrows and often disappear abruptly when disturbed.

I know a bit more about sparrows now and a lot more than I did in 1961 when I wrote about them in my school Nature Studies exercise book which my dad kept in his scrap book…

Scrap Book Project – Ornithology, Blackbirds and Sweden

An early piece of artwork c1960

I am going to begin with a warning.  It is a word of caution about the sudden acquisition of new and unlikely interests.  I was sure that this could not possibly happen to me but I have been struck down with a chronic interest in wild birds.

I have become a twitcher!  and it happened so quickly and without warning so I was powerless to resist it.  It has become so bad that I now even look out for Bill Oddie programmes on the television (Springwatch, Autumnwatch, How to Watch Wildlife, Wild In Your Garden, Birding with Bill Oddie, Britain Goes Wild with Bill Oddie and Bill Oddie Goes Wild) and not so long ago I would have preferred to boil my own head rather than watch a Bill Oddie programme.

When I was a boy I used to collect Brooke Bond tea cards and diligently stick them in an album, even then one of my least favourite collections was British Birds because it was just so dull.  I preferred the African Wild Life and the Asian Wild Life collections because they were colourful and exciting, I think I even quite liked the Tropical Birds set but British Birds, for me, were always such a disappointment.

One day in March I was doing a little early shrub pruning in the garden and I was tackling an overgrown and scruffy specimen that is attached to the garden shed.  I was working in a frenzy, slashing away and cutting back indiscriminately, when my efforts revealed an obviously recently constructed bird’s nest.  I was sorry about that because where it had been carefully concealed in the labyrinth of twigs and leaves it was now dangerously exposed to the elements and potential predators.  At this stage no one seemed to be occupying the nest but I kept an eye on it for any sign of activity and began to see a pair of blackbirds flying in and out quite regularly.  Goodness knows what they thought about the rearrangements that I had made to their front door but I was pleased that it hadn’t scared them away.

Then one day it happened.  This was the day that I crossed over and I became hopelessly hooked.  I had been making regular inspections but on this day I was elated to discover three shiny blue speckled eggs in the moss at the bottom of the nest.  Because of my habitat vandalism I decided that this pair of birds was my special responsibility and I started to provide food so that they wouldn’t have to go far away from the nest that I had uncovered to the world.

I carried out some research and was surprised to learn that these eggs could be hatched in about three weeks so I increased my nest inspections to twice a day in anticipation of the happy event and was overjoyed one day to find some baby chicks lying pathetic and vulnerable in the bottom of the nest.  After that I stayed away for fear of frightening away the adults but I needn’t have worried and they stayed around and were happy enough to accept the food that I was regularly putting out for them.

The male quickly became the boss of the back garden becoming increasingly territorial and chasing away other birds that were bold enough to venture in to share the bread and raisins that I was providing and the pair of them kept up a frenetic level of activity going backwards and forwards to the nest to keep the little ones fed.  I was surprised how quickly they grew and very soon there was a serious overcrowding problem in the nest with three fat chicks competing for their share of a very restricted space.

Then in April I was away for a few days and upon return was disappointed to find that they had gone, not even a thank you note left behind and I was sad that I had missed their first flight, I had been looking forward to it as though I was a parent myself waiting for a child to take its first steps.

See, I told you that I was hooked!

An interesting fact about the Blackbird is that it is the national bird of Sweden and although many World countries have national birds this is the only one, apart from the English Robin, that I can find that has chosen a bird that I have found in my garden.  Many countries, especially in the tropics prefer colourful specimens like parrots for their national bird, the French have the Cockerel and the USA has the Bald Eagle and others too like to choose something spectacular and powerful.  The most common national bird is the Golden Eagle which is claimed by Austria and Germany, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Scotland.

In the Middle Ages and right up to Shakespeare’s time the blackbird was known by the distinctive old English name of the Ouzel, Ousel or Wosle and it is a pity that this has become obsolete, though it may still be referred to as such in Scotland.  The first recorded usage of blackbird was in 1486 and even though there are bigger black birds in medieval England such as the Crow, Raven, Rook or Jackdaw, these were previously regarded as fowl so the Ouzel was simply the largest black bird at that time.  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare describes the bird as ‘The Woosell cocke, so blacke of hew, With Orenge-tawny bill’.

Also, north of the border, where linguistic relics of the old alliance with France still remain, the blackbird is sometimes known by its French name of le Merle.  A Blackbird is el Mirlo in Spanish and il Merlo in Italian; all of which are from the Latin Merula by the way.

My dad knew all about birds and when he was young he kept a journal of British species in an exercise book.  This was his blackbird page…

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Other posts about birds:

Blackbirds

Collared Doves

Dunnock

Fat Balls

Mozart’s Starling

Robin

Seagull

Starlings

Starlings in the USA

Vinkensetting

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Fat Balls

With so many birds stopping by the garden now on account of the Arctic weather buying food from the garden centre or the supermarket can start to get a bit expensive so I have been looking for alternatives so here are some tips to prepare your own bird gourmet meal.

I have been experimenting with making my own fat balls and so far I am really quite pleased with the results.

Bottom left in the picture is a beef fat preparation that I made by rendering down the fat from some sirloin steak and then adding to it some seed, fruit and oats.  Unfortunately this wasn’t a completely brilliant success and it started to melt down a bit in the warm October sunshine so it perhaps best to save this for a cold winter morning.  This wasn’t a huge problem however because the birds finished it off before it could completely drip away.  It was a success mainly with the Starlings who squabbled over it until it was gone.

Bottom right is a similar preparation but this time using pork fat and this seems to be much more successful.  It has an altogether thicker consistency and it seems to bind together so much better.  This time I added the seeds and the fruit but also some broken up bread crusts that seemed to soak up and hold the fat together well.  It looks good enough to eat yourself don’t you think?  A bit like a luxury Belgian Florentine! Again this was a big favourite with the Starlings and the Great Tit showed a great deal of interest as well.

One other little tip is that you might want to keep the kitchen window open while you are preparing the fat mixture!

Top left there is some pork fat that was left over after preparing the fat ball and this is always a big favourite with the birds and top right is the ever popular bacon fat.  Don’t throw it away, just grill it slowly for a while and the blackbirds will love it.

Don’t throw gone over fruit away either, because the birds will really enjoy chopped up grapes and oranges and as for an old pear, they will go crazy!

There are a number of places to go on the web to find out more about making your own bird food and I recommend this helpful site and page:http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=357  Be careful however when you search on ‘fat balls’ because you might not always find exactly what you were expecting!

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Other posts about birds:

Blackbirds

Collared Doves

Dunnock

Mozart’s Starling

Robin

Seagull

Starlings

Starlings in the USA

Vinkensetting

_____________________________________________

Fat Balls

With so many birds stopping by the garden now buying food from the garden centre or the supermarket can start to get a bit expensive so I have been looking for alternatives so here are some tips to prepare your own bird gourmet meal.

I have been experimenting with making my own fat balls and so far I am really quite pleased with the results.

Bottom left in the picture is a beef fat preparation that I made by rendering down the fat from some sirloin steak and then adding to it some seed, fruit and oats.  Unfortunately this wasn’t a completely brilliant success and it started to melt down a bit in the warm October sunshine so it perhaps best to save this for a cold winter morning.  This wasn’t a huge problem however because the birds finished it off before it could completely drip away.  It was a success mainly with the Starlings who squabbled over it until it was gone.

Bottom right is a similar preparation but this time using pork fat and this seems to be much more successful.  It has an altogether thicker consistency and it seems to bind together so much better.  This time I added the seeds and the fruit but also some broken up bread crusts that seemed to soak up and hold the fat together well.  It looks good enough to eat yourself don’t you think?  A bit like a luxury Belgian Florentine! Again this was a big favourite with the Starlings and the Great Tit showed a great deal of interest as well.

One other little tip is that you might want to keep the kitchen window open while you are preparing the fat mixture!

Top left there is some pork fat that was left over after preparing the fat ball and this is always a big favourite with the birds and top right is the ever popular bacon fat.  Don’t throw it away, just grill it slowly for a while and the blackbirds will love it.

Don’t throw gone over fruit away either, because the birds will really enjoy chopped up grapes and oranges and as for an old pear, they will go crazy!

There are a number of places to go on the web to find out more about making your own bird food and I recommend this helpful site and page:http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=357  Be careful however when you search on ‘fat balls’ because you might not always find exactly what you were expecting!

_____________________________________________

Other posts about birds:

Blackbirds

Collared Doves

Dunnock

Mozart’s Starling

Robin

Seagull

Starlings

Starlings in the USA

Vinkensetting

_____________________________________________

British Birds – The Sparrow

Not exclusively British of course because they are found all over the World but according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds the population of house sparrows in Britain has fallen by nearly 70% in the past thirty years, it is rarely seen in London anymore and there are fewer in urban back gardens and this decline in numbers is now so serious that the sparrow is on the RSPB red list of conservation importance.

Their web site explains that the UK’s birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance – red, amber and green.  Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. Amber is the next most critical group, followed by green.  Also on the red list are the Thrush and the Starling but happily on the green list are the blackbird, the blue tit, the wren and the robin.

While watching the birds I noticed that some of the sparrows looked very different indeed and when I consulted my book of garden birds I realised that I hadn’t been paying enough attention to detail because there were three types of different bird that I had been generally referring to as sparrows and it turns out that one isn’t even a sparrow at all!  It’s a Dunnock!

First of all (picture 1) there is the tree sparrow, which is smaller than the more common house sparrow and quite different in appearance. It has a chestnut brown head and nape (rather than grey), and white cheeks and collar with a contrasting black cheek-spot.  It is on the red list and is only really found down the east of the country and not in Wales or the southwest at all.  I am really pleased to see them here because based on the Common Bird Census, there was a decline of 85% in numbers in Britain between the two breeding periods (1968-72 and 1988-91), which was the largest decline of any common species during this period.  Little is known about the factors affecting numbers of tree sparrows, but their recent decline has occurred at the same time as decreases in the numbers of other farmland birds which share its diet of grass, wildflower and cereal seeds, and also feed their young on insects and it is therefore possible that its decline is due to changing agricultural practices.

Next (picture 2) is the good old house sparrow which is much more numerous and found all over the British Isles.  They are noisy and gregarious and are cheerful and welcome visitors to the bird table and the feeders.  There may seem to a lot of house sparrows and their numbers are estimated at thirteen million, but the worrying fact is that thirty years ago there were twenty five million and the population in London has declined by a whopping 70%.  That’s something to be concerned about!  No one really knows why but some of the suggestions are that new house building methods and materials make it difficult for sparrows to find suitable nesting sites and the current fad for overly tidy gardens also takes away some of their natural habitat.  So I say forget about clinically tidy gardens and leave some wildlife friendly area in the garden and welcome the sparrow back!  I think the RSPB will agree with me.

Finally (picture 3), there is the Dunnock, which I am certain I must have seen before but am embarrassed to say that I have previously failed to identify him correctly.  He looks like a sparrow but he isn’t, even if sometimes he is referred to as the hedge sparrow.  It is a small brown and grey bird and quite quiet and unobtrusive with better manners than the squabbling sparrows, I have often seen it on its own, creeping along the edge of flower beds or amongst the shrubs, moving with a rather nervous, shuffling gait, often flicking its wings as it goes.  They are more edgy and aware than the sparrows and often disappear abruptly when disturbed.

I know a bit more about sparrows now and a lot more than I did in 1961 when I wrote about them in my school Nature Studies exercise book…

The Sparrowhawk – Killer in the Back Garden

Early one morning I opened the curtains and in the branch of a tree in the garden opposite was a collared dove, just sitting, minding its own business and probably making feeding plans for the day ahead.  As I opened the window it spread its wings and set off in that clumsy and not especially aerodynamic way that they have of taking to the air and started to gain height.  It hadn’t got very far however when suddenly from out of nowhere a second bird collided with it like a guided missile and there was an explosion of grey feathers.  I didn’t see it coming and neither did the collared dove but even if it had there was nothing it would have been able to do about it because it was the Sparrowhawk.

The Sparrowhawk as well as being a magnificent bird is a ruthless killer and designed to hunt expertly from the air.  It tracks at great speed, darting out of cover with extreme dexterity combined with deadly accuracy to kill its prey.   It doesn’t hover, like the Kestrel or the Hawk, but relies on pace, momentum and surprise to catch its food and for this it is well designed with long slim legs, large sharp talons and a very efficient hooked beak that it uses for piercing and tearing up its prey.

The male Sparrowhawk was formerly called a musket, and the gun was named after the bird which perhaps gives a clue as to just how deadly they can be.  They are expert hunters and very fast fliers, and often make quick dashes over hedgerows or along the ground when chasing prey, which is often spectacularly captured using a downward plummet from the sky with closed wings.  The pairs work well together as a team and to avoid competition between the two sexes, males concentrate on smaller birds, such as sparrows and tits, and females hunt larger birds including collared doves, thrushes and starlings.

After intercepting the unsuspecting bird in flight the Sparrowhawk dropped to the ground and set about preparing breakfast.  I had seen the hit but it was all so quick that it was only now that I was beginning to understand what was going on.  The killer stood on the doomed bird, who only had a matter of seconds left to wonder what hit it, and opened it wings to form a tent and spread its tail feathers to provide balance.

The wings had wonderful markings, russet brown with dark stripes and she flapped them continuously to prevent any unexpected break for escape but there was no way that this was going to happen and she  removed the wings, plucked the breast and removed the face and beak in a matter of seconds and then with the dead bird in its talons it took off and flew away at great speed probably to take it back to its nest somewhere and to feed the nest full of chicks because there is quite a lot of meat on a collared dove.

Each adult Sparrowhawk will kill and consume a couple of small birds a day for themselves and when they are breeding at about this time of the year a pair needs to catch another ten or so just to feed the chicks.  According to the RSPB there are forty thousand breeding pairs in the United Kingdom so by my calculation that is twenty thousand nests with an average of three chicks each so to feed themselves and their offspring this means three hundred thousand murders a day.  As Thomas Hobbes said in his philosophical treatise, Leviathan, ‘Life (in the state of nature) is nasty, brutish and short”.

I didn’t capture this incident on camera but a few days later the bird was back this time in the back garden and on this occassion picked up a young starling for lunch.

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Other posts about birds:

Blackbirds                                                                                                                                Collared Doves                                                                                                                            Dunnock                                                                                                                                              Fat Balls                                                                                                                                    Mozart’s Starling                                                                                                                            Robin                                                                                                                                        Starlings                                                                                                                                   Starlings in the USA                                                                                                 Vinkensetting                          ____________________________________________

The Seagull Has Landed

Seagulls may well be a feature of the seaside but when I moved to Grimsby I didn’t expect to get a pair nesting on my roof!

It started about two months ago when birds started to appear in the area and could be seen on chimney stacks along the road but I didn’t think a great deal about it.  Then five or six weeks ago I came across a broken egg shell in the garden and using my book of common British Birds I was able to identify it as the egg of a Herring Gull and all of a sudden I began to understand why I had been sweeping up twigs and nest building material from all around the house over the last couple of weeks and it became obvious that a nesting pair had chosen my chimney as the perfect place to raise a family!

This still wasn’t too much of an inconvenience and I watched them daily until finally the eggs hatched and two chicks appeared – then the problems started.

Firstly the noise every morning at four o’clock as it got light and the parents took it in turns to go looking for food and announced their departure and arrival to and from the chimney pots with their familiar loud squawking calls which meant a succession of unexpected early wake ups.

  

Secondly the neighbours who kept knocking on the door and telling me I’d got house guests each one as though telling me something that I didn’t know already and then my roof suddenly became something like the Television programme ‘Springwatch’ and I was conscious that several pairs of binoculars were trained on the house which meant I had to be sure to put my trousers on before wandering around in the mornings!

Finally protective parenting has made my back garden a virtual no-go area.  The birds have grown to quite a substantial size and there is no room in the nest for both chicks and the parents so one adult birds stays on permanent sentry duty on the roof of the house next door and anytime I go in the garden it starts to sound a repetitive clucking alarm call which seems to alert other seagulls nearby and within seconds there are half a dozen of them circling the garden and making an awful din.  A couple of them are quite aggressive and will swoop down as though attacking and a few times I have been nervous enough to beat a hasty retreat back into the house.

Unfortunately I can expect them to be there for another couple of weeks or so because although they are quite large now and have an impressive wing span they seem to be showing no inclination to fly away so I have to continue to put up with the inconvenience.  They are protected of course which means I can’t take action against them without being in breach of the Wildlife and Countryside Acts and the really bad news is that these things live for a very long time and may well come back again next year.

Daily they young birds get more adventurous and extend their wings and peer over the edge of the chimney, eventually the first one leaps and like a piece of falling masonry broken from the stack it falls gracelessly into the garden where it sits for a moment or two dealing with the surprise change of environment.  After a while almost as though some primeval sense of danger inherent in its cunning brain urges it to move to a less vulnerable position and so it flapped its awkward wings and half flying, half jumping repositioned itself on the bonnet of my car where it stayed for an hour or so and obligingly let me take these photographs.

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Other posts about birds:

Blackbirds

Collared Doves

Dunnock

Fat Balls

Mozart’s Starling

Robin

Starlings

Starlings in the USA

Vinkensetting

_____________________________________________

Ornithology, Blackbirds and Sweden

An early piece of artwork c1960

I am going to begin with a warning.  It is a word of caution about the sudden acquisition of new and unlikely interests.  I was sure that this could not possibly happen to me but I have been struck down with a chronic interest in wild birds.

I have become a twitcher!  and it happened so quickly and without warning so I was powerless to resist it.  It has become so bad that I now even look out for Bill Oddie programmes on the television (Springwatch, Autumnwatch, How to Watch Wildlife, Wild In Your Garden, Birding with Bill Oddie, Britain Goes Wild with Bill Oddie and Bill Oddie Goes Wild) and not so long ago I would have preferred to boil my own head rather than watch a Bill Oddie programme.

When I was a boy I used to collect Brooke Bond tea cards and diligently stick them in an album, even then one of my least favourite collections was British Birds because it was just so dull.  I preferred the African Wild Life and the Asian Wild Life collections because they were colourful and exciting, I think I even quite liked the Tropical Birds set but British Birds, for me, were always such a disappointment.

One day in March I was doing a little early shrub pruning in the garden and I was tackling an overgrown and scruffy specimen that is attached to the garden shed.  I was working in a frenzy, slashing away and cutting back indiscriminately, when my efforts revealed an obviously recently constructed bird’s nest.  I was sorry about that because where it had been carefully concealed in the labyrinth of twigs and leaves it was now dangerously exposed to the elements and potential predators.  At this stage no one seemed to be occupying the nest but I kept an eye on it for any sign of activity and began to see a pair of blackbirds flying in and out quite regularly.  Goodness knows what they thought about the rearrangements that I had made to their front door but I was pleased that it hadn’t scared them away.

Then one day it happened.  This was the day that I crossed over and I became hopelessly hooked.  I had been making regular inspections but on this day I was elated to discover three shiny blue speckled eggs in the moss at the bottom of the nest.  Because of my habitat vandalism I decided that this pair of birds was my special responsibility and I started to provide food so that they wouldn’t have to go far away from the nest that I had uncovered to the world.

I carried out some research and was surprised to learn that these eggs could be hatched in about three weeks so I increased my nest inspections to twice a day in anticipation of the happy event and was overjoyed one day to find some baby chicks lying pathetic and vulnerable in the bottom of the nest.  After that I stayed away for fear of frightening away the adults but I needn’t have worried and they stayed around and were happy enough to accept the food that I was regularly putting out for them.

The male quickly became the boss of the back garden becoming increasingly territorial and chasing away other birds that were bold enough to venture in to share the bread and raisins that I was providing and the pair of them kept up a frenetic level of activity going backwards and forwards to the nest to keep the little ones fed.  I was surprised how quickly they grew and very soon there was a serious overcrowding problem in the nest with three fat chicks competing for their share of a very restricted space.

Then in April I was away for a few days and upon return was disappointed to find that they had gone, not even a thank you note left behind and I was sad that I had missed their first flight, I had been looking forward to it as though I was a parent myself waiting for a child to take its first steps.

See, I told you that I was hooked!

An interesting fact about the Blackbird is that it is the national bird of Sweden and although many World countries have national birds this is the only one, apart from the English Robin, that I can find that has chosen a bird that I have found in my garden.  Many countries, especially in the tropics prefer colourful specimens like parrots for their national bird, the French have the Cockerel and the USA has the Bald Eagle and others too like to choose something spectacular and powerful.  The most common national bird is the Golden Eagle which is claimed by Austria and Germany, Kazakhstan, Mexico and Scotland.

In the Middle Ages and right up to Shakespeare’s time the blackbird was known by the distinctive old English name of the Ouzel, Ousel or Wosle and it is a pity that this has become obsolete, though it may still be referred to as such in Scotland.  The first recorded usage of blackbird was in 1486 and even though there are bigger black birds in medieval England such as the Crow, Raven, Rook or Jackdaw, these were previously regarded as fowl so the Ouzel was simply the largest black bird at that time.  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare describes the bird as ‘The Woosell cocke, so blacke of hew, With Orenge-tawny bill’.

Also, north of the border, where linguistic relics of the old alliance with France still remain, the blackbird is sometimes known by its French name of le Merle.  A Blackbird is el Mirlo in Spanish and il Merlo in Italian; all of which are from the Latin Merula by the way.

My dad knew all about birds and when he was young he kept a journal of British species in an exercise book.  This is his blackbird page…

_____________________________________________

Other posts about birds:

Blackbirds

Collared Doves

Dunnock

Fat Balls

Mozart’s Starling

Robin

Seagull

Starlings

Starlings in the USA

Vinkensetting

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