Sunday 24 January 2010

Glib bard in word botch!

Unless you've been off the planet, visiting relatives lately, you will have not failed to notice that next weekend, 30-31 January, is the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch 2010.

This is your chance to risk whiplash as you try to keep track of the little blighters whizzing around your feeder, or conversely, risk terminal boredom for an hour as next door's cat is sat out of your sight line but not the birds'.

It all provides valuable information on the state of the nation's wintering avifauna, from the comfort of your own home. No trudging for miles through the mud to sit in a freezing hide that's been vandalised to within an inch of pornography. Just a comfy chair, a hot cuppa and the wonder of Nature in your front or back garden (no euphemism intended).

It's a bit like the census, only it's every year and there's not a tick box for Jedi Knight.

An hour is about right for the cycle of feeding that goes on in this neck of the woods. There'll perhaps be five or ten minutes of "Where's everything gone?", courtesy of the afore-mentioned cat, or some eejit revving the nuts off his motor bike or, if you're really lucky, a passing Sparrowhawk. What? You've never tried to rev a Sparrowhawk!?!

When normality returns, it usually starts off quite sedately, Blue Tits and Great Tits taking it in turns to visit the seed feeder, with perhaps the occasional Coal Tit, timidly putting in an appearance. Three Blueys might politely and geometrically share the peanut feeder, each 120 degrees apart, lest they offend each other.

The finches bustle in next, in a whirling cloud of inter- and intra-species warfare. Belying its gorgeous colours and intricate song, there's nothing quite so arsey as a Goldfinch on a feeder. The Greenfinches aren't much better, leaving the Chaffinches to hover around the edges or tidy up under the feeder. Finally, a few House Sparrows drift in, like kids late for school, seemingly more interested in squabbling amongst themselves.

After a while, a couple of Starlings will monopolise both seed and nuts, only being chased away by the arrival of a Great Spotted Woodpecker or a Grey Squirrel. And then the cycle will repeat, starting with the mixed tit flock again. 

Meanwhile, on the ground, the Wood Pigeons will have been acting out a cameo, strutting around the lawn, pretending they know which way is up or some other clever fact. The Collared Doves don't fall for this nonsense, ignoring all the bravado and handbags, preferring to attempt the columbine world record for the most birds on a small birdtable. This currently stands at eight, four inside and four on the roof. Someone should phone Noel Edmonds.

The blackbirds are the bullies of the garden, chasing away each other, Song Thrushes and any bird smaller than themselves that strays too near their food. But who's the first to alarm call and run screaming for cover at the slightest perceived danger? Losers.

Then there's the psycho schizophrenic Robins. Cute and fluffy one minute, feathered Rottweilers the next and prepared to attack anything vaguely Robin-shaped. I ask you, if you're a Dunnock, what is your motivation to get out of bed in the morning, knowing that as soon as you stick your beak out of the door, some Tasmanian Devil will "Taz" your arse for just existing? The only reason must be all that love triangle shenanigans in the rose bed, that's what. I dunno, hopping about the lawn, pretending to be all strait-laced and dour and demure, but really a bunch of sordid, sex starved maniacs. A very Victorian bird, the Dunnock.

All in all, an hour's garden watching can be pretty entertaining. So don't forget to take part in the BGBW and contribute to our understanding of the long term trends affecting our wildlife. For more details, click here.

PS If you see any Dunnocks building railways and bridges, or distributing religious pamphlets, please adjust your medication.

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