This little Starling was just too funny – there’s a phrase in Urdu that would get tossed at me when I filled up my plate with more than I could eat – ‘big eyes, little mouth’, here it is in action.
I think this little fellow was on his last legs, a tribute then, to all his hard work as a pollinating superstar.
Lady Goldfinch, not a frequent visitor, but a much loved one.
A couple of weeks ago I was tap-tap-tapping away in my little ‘studio’ when suddenly the lovely birdsong that accompanies the rhythm of our lives morphed into a shrieking cacophony more suited to a certain Hitchcock film. It felt as if every bird in the sky had realized the end was nigh and begun screaming in unison. Lily and I jumped and ran to the back door to the garden, not really sure what was going on. I pulled open the door, Lily at my heels, and we were both suddenly frozen as we saw on the ground right in front of us a sparrowhawk, wings surrounding its prey and with another little fluffy body of a recently fledged starling nearby. It looked at me with that eye (oh, that eye!) and I was completely hypnotized – had I been a fluffy bunny that would have been the end of me I expect.
After what seemed like a while, though I expect was barely a couple of seconds, the bird took off and Lily sprung into action towards the spot where the sparrowhawk had been. I yelled at her to get away and she took off towards the end of the garden leaving me at the scene. Looking at the patch of grass vacated by the predator I saw the second of the little starlings get up and lurch, bloodied and spurting red, towards the cover of a nearby hedge where it collapsed and died. As I stood there, completely horror-struck by the whole episode, I may have let out a little scream myself (okay, okay – so am lily-livered city girl…*blush*).
Of course I could do nothing but fret until the man of the wilds came home and ‘dealt with it,’ admonishing me for having interrupted the female sparrowhawk (of course he knew it was) sorting out a meal for her little fledgelings back in the nest. To rub it in, he pointed out that she’d probably have to go ‘off’ a few more starling chicks in order to feed her family, the death of these little ones having been in vain (though he did leave them for cat/fox by the fence and, sure enough, just a tuft of feathers by the morning).
So I failed. My first encounter with Nature in her fiery glory and I played stupid rabbit *sigh*.Will now have to sit through a lot more Attenborough on Eden to compensate. But, at least I made a cool sparrowhawk picture to illustrate since I wasn’t really quick or calm enough to take a photograph. The feather textures are actually from a photo I took of a pair of duckies by the river, tee hee. Hope you like it.
And if you enjoyed my tale of woe – here’s another on the topic by Derek Neimann in the Guardian, also taking place in Bedfordshire.
Since I moved to the British countryside I have learned to appreciate the wealth of wildlife that surrounds us here. I never (ever) expected that whole afternoons would be spent watching the flutterings of our little friends, listening to the variety of birdsong in the garden and talking about the latest happenings with the bird families that have made our garden their home. My husband, an avid ‘twitcher’ (the very British term for birdwatcher) is much to blame for this state of affairs. He spends a lot of time, come rain, snow or sun, making sure his feathered friends are well fed and happy. This involves many trips to the garden centre for bird food, and related paraphernalia, as well as the construction of bird houses dotted around the garden and the maintenance of the trees and the hedges. In winter he makes sure their water bowls have warm water, refreshed multiple times a day.
I have to admit I was slow to come around to ‘twitching’ but I have been won over and now prowl about happily trying to capture these frequent visitors on film. I apologize for the graininess of some of the shots, having been taken at a distance and through glass to avoid disturbing the birds, but I hope you’ll enjoy them.
The Pied Wagtail
A Starling and a Blue Tit
A Starling fledgling and some sparring Starlings
A Wren and a Thrush
We are indebted to the RSPB’s ‘Bird Identifier‘and I am indebted to my twitchy husband for bringing this little wondrous world to my attention. And in case you missed it – here’s the data from the 2011 Big Garden Birdwatch.