Friday, 28 March 2014

28th March - Yeah I See Those Smiling Eyes

Cold easterly winds, and recovery from a nasty virus have combined to keep any sightings this week at a low.  This morning started wet and cold with wintry showers, and like most of the week the feeders and bird table in the garden was the main attraction.

This gave me the opportunity to appreciate the plumage details of a few of our commoner and often over looked birds.  Firstly the Collared Dove, a large dove, with a small head and delicate appearance.  The plumage is generally pale, and lacking in any contrast, with brownish grey on the wings while the under wings are a lovely silky grey.  The black collar that gives it its name is actually white edged on the adult birds, and the eye is a deep red.

This ordinary dove is actually one of Europe's most remarkable birds.  From the 1930s it has spread from the Middle East, through all of Europe reaching Britain in the late 1950s.  This amazing expansion then stopped in the 1970s, but has now established itself as one of the most widespread birds in the UK.  Much of Scandinavia and Spain are still Collared Dove free.

Next up the bird that makes us remark, "no, only a pigeon", the Wood Pigeon.  We are blessed with literally thousands around Four Marks, large flocks bursting from the tops of the trees and feeding flocks being seen in the fields.  Farmers consider them as pests, as do many gardeners.  However with a good eye, they are really splendid looking birds.  Close up they are beautiful creatures; plump and shiny, their plumage patterns are full of subtle variations on basic blue greys, brownish greys and soft pinks.

Plumage like this on any other bird would attract much attention, but as it is a Woodpigeon we ignore it.  At this time of year they can be seen performing their display flights where they take off in a steep climb, and then stall with a sharp snapped wing clap.

One of my favourites I am sure you have now realised is the Starling.  I love to watch the antics of the flocks that come into the garden, either on the lawn, at the feeders, and in the bird baths.  At this time of year the winter coat has gone and the beauty in the breeding plumage can be seen.  The bill turns yellow in the summer, and the male has a blue base to the bill while the female's shows a hint of pink.  The overall plumage has yellowish white spots on feathers that have a metallic green and violet sheen.  You can see this in the portrait below of a male bird letting all the other starlings around this is his territory.

There were others too, but they did not present themselves for a portrait, I will though keep trying.  The female Blackcap was about again, using the feeders and creeping about amongst the branches.  She disappeared during the warm spell, returning again to feed when the cold weather returned.

The forecast for the weekend looks promising, warm south-easterly winds and some sunshine, who knows maybe an early Swallow, or Willow Warbler or if I am really lucky a fly over Osprey heading north.  Who am I kidding I would be happy with an Orange Tip butterfly!

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