Ooh that’s cold! I tell you, this birding business can be addictive! Over an hour spent, frozen (literally!) to the same spot in the frost spiked expanse of the back garden that makes up part of my local patch, with just a slight twist of the scope to signify my existence as a living organism…but it was worth it! (I think…). The minute I strode into the garden a note hitched itself to my ear…that note manifested into a bubbling jingle, a wave of sound with all the twitches, and pressing my eye to that heavy scope I got a sudden jump…over 50 starlings, all calling and singing, their numbers splayed over the great size of a mature eucalyptus that grows at the rear of our garden, a beautiful sheen to their mottled coats – the majority I believed to be males, as the long, raised hackle feathers payed tribute to. Watching them for about half an hour through the scope was absolute bliss, then watching as they slowly but surely made their way down the great tree, still singing in varying formation.
Turning my attention from them I lifted and swung the scope over to the cold, blue, cloudless expanse of sky that curved away above me…a solitary Red Kite comes into view, the pale orange wings spreading out either side in a magnificent salute, I suspected juvenile (although they are very hard to tell apart and may even look exactly the same in some circumstances) due to what I observed as being a less pronounced fork of the tail and far paler feathers than what I had normally observe in adult kites. The kite screamed a piercing cry and wheeled off into the distance as the harsh sunlight caught his/her (it’s very hard to identify the gender of a Red Kite and I was certainly stumped!) wing tips, lighting them in glorious fire. Then what did I see but another! Far larger than the first, with a jagged, forked tail and jet black feathers mottled onto fabulously bright orange wings – there was no doubt that this was a fully grown adult! – circling three times he/she (I know this is sort of spoiling the gravity of the situation, but I really don’t know!) also screamed a far more throaty cry of defiance, and then also wheeled away into the distance behind me.
Hmmm…anything after that might seem quite dull I believe, but I’ll give it a try!. My efforts were rewarded shortly after by the rasping call of the jackdaw, prancing about on the icy rooftop like no-ones business! – and not just the one; a whole troop of around 15 jackdaws teetered on the roof in their strange, leaning stance while shrill, rasping calls echoed from their beaks. Magpies were also present, cackling and flapping in short bursts, I counted about 10 in total, mind you- they are really not that hard to spot!.
A shiver in amidst the twigs of an evergreen bush; ? Aha, a wren; darting about in the tangling curfew of branches…and then two more! ‘Beautiful but simple’ seems to be the code of the wren, or even ‘less is more’, because they are certainly more than what they seem. And of course, no bitterly cold British garden in the winter would be true to its name if it didn’t have our national bird (drumroll if you please) – the charismatic Robin, I had to be very fast indeed to catch a glimpse of him (I can’t gender a kite but I sure can gender a Robin!).
Winter time is not exactly the best time to watch for garden birds, as I found out…not exactly an armada of rarities, but the highlight I believe was the starlings, absolutely magnificent birds!. Although the roar of a New Standard D-25’s engine overhead did pull my scope away for a second. So that’s it for now, a presumptuous bumble in the garden, looking forward to some warmer weather in the near future….