Sunday, February 12, 2006


I'm singing the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order
On Saturday morning, all the birds round our way seemed to have reached the conclusion that spring is underway. Most were proclaiming their territory ( or "showing off" in layman's terms).

There was a great tit riffing with its usual "rusty bicycle wheel" refrain, then surprising me by doing a bit of improvisation in the Eric Morecambe style ( hover thumbnail thing over the picture). A sparrow was chirruping away. In Robert Burton's Birdfeeder Handbook there is a picture caption which says "a male (sparrow) chirps monotonously to try to attract a mate". Why not? After all, it seems to have worked for Preston from the Ordinary Boys.

Amidst all this the local robin was twittering away with its usual adorable, coquettish warble (the birdsong equivalent of someone tickling the nape of your neck). Unfortunately, it can only be a matter of weeks before it is drowned out by the louder, overrated blackbird, whose song starts out promisingly enough with a few flutey notes but descends into a feeble, jazzy atonal squal, as if the singer couldn't be arsed to see it through to the end. Then the flutey notes resume, then the jazzy squal, repeat into tedium. The blackbird reaches the height of its vocal prowess by midsummer, when it refuses to shut up from around 3.00 am to about 10.00 at night while the missus has her work cut out trying to feed nestlings. Bloody men.

Describing birdsong is very difficult, although it has not deterred nature lovers for many centuries. The yellowhammer is said to be asking for "a-little-bit-of-bread-with-no-cheese-please" which is complete bollocks. I mean, would you go into a sandwich shop and ask for "a-little-bit-of-roll-with-no-ham-please"? You'd be laughed out of the place.


I thought that went extinct years ago.

(Must get out of the city some day)
I've got a Robin who comes to see me every mroning. When I do a spot of gardening - because that's the kind of thing I find myself doing occasionally these days - he comes and sits on a nearby branch and gives me advice. At least, I think he's giving me advice. He could, alternatively be saying: "Put some fucking effort into it and work off that hangover you lightweight."
Don't be fooled by its fluffy red breast and cutesy Christmas-card mien. The robin is a vicious, aggressive beast. The hamster of the avian world.
Spinsterella - I think we only get birds around here because there are a few trees screening the backs of houses and flats, and there's a school field nearby. Not there are many exotic ones (excluding the parakeets that turn up in high summer - an example of global warming?)

Wyndham - robins are very tame compared to most birds and will follow gardeners around in the hope of some tasty treats being dug up. Yours was probably saying "make sure you dig up a few grubs as it's lunchtime and I haven't got all day, otherwise I'll crap on your car every time it's just been washed".

Patroclus - it's true, they are fiercely territorial. They can fight to the death with one another over territory. It's not just other birds they have a beef with - apparently some bloke had to put on a motorcyle helmet every time he went into his garden as a robin was nesting there and kept attacking him.
I've got two months to wait before the Robins come around but we've had a really warm winter and there a lot of nuthatches, wrens and little chickadees. The only bird 'song' I can describe is an owl, because I saw it one of the childrens' books...tuwhit, tuwooo.
Yes, moving on....we have really agressive Blue Jays here, they chase the Robins away. And of course, the ever present Magpies. They never seem to go away.
I thought that was discribed perfectly.

And now, because you said the robin word and there isn't any here, I'm off for a bit of a blub.
blimey, red in tooth and claw and all that.

i don't get nature, me. it's all a bit, well, earthy.

or is that the point?
Life! Surly girl.
I am a twitcher too Betty, don't tell anyone.
Kyahgirl - I think the robins across the Atlantic are a bit larger and more colourful than the European ones (well, according to my Collins field guide). The magpies are the same, no doubt.

Surly Girl - nature seems to involve a lot of eating, fighting, defecating and breeding once or twice a year. A bit like the sort of people who shop in Iceland really.

Caroline - I wouldn't say I'm a twitcher really. I wouldn't fancy hanging around freezing marshes at dawn on a January morning wearing a wax jacket and armed with £500 binoculars with Swarowski lenses. Plus, I'm too stupid to remember how to tell the difference between a reed warbler and a river warbler ... I just like looking around my garden or a park and saying "ooh, look, there's a jay!" which impresses people who aren't interested in that sort of stuff.
Oh no, I'm not that sad. I am quite sad though as I recently posted on a small farming website to try and find out the name of a birdie I had seen here..
And I got a NZ bird book for Christmas.....
I've got a friend who is a birdwatcher. Still, I've got to take what friends I can get these days. There was a time when I had a whole bunch of friends - then I got drunk at a party and pissed on one of them for a laugh. Ah, those halcyon days!
So presumably the birdwatcher doesn't mind being pissed on ... erm, don't answer that one ...
I first started my birdwatching at the pond in Platt Fields. Tyrone drove his flaming van in there the other day. I worried about the ducks
You know, the first thing I said when I saw him drive that van into the pond was "I feel sorry for those poor ducks". I was hoping it would blow up while he was still inside it though.
Just a shame the pond was so shallow.

Then again cod mouth Tyrone can probably breathe underwater.
come on then, betty! where are you! WHERE ARE YOU?? LET'S HAVE YOU!

good old delia.
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I'm in a static caravan on the Isle Of Grain, listening to Minnie Riperton and clearing my head of all the dirt from the city, maan.
Betty, you haven't, by any chance, been killed by the bird have you? Missing you :-)
"We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden ..."
I am not a morning person, but it's worth dragging myself out of bed early just to hear that fabulous warbly sound the magpies make in the morning. I keep trying to catch in on recorder so I can audioblog it for some US friends, but so far it's been a bit early to get my head around the technology involved. (Find recorder, push play...it's too challenging before 10am. =) )
That sounds way beyond my capacities as well.

I think magpies are seen in a very negative light when they're actually rathter exotic looking and quite interesting, intelligent birds. They're criticised for stealing other birds' eggs in the same way foxes are criticised for killing chickens. It's humans trying to impose human morality on animals!
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