A pair of beautiful long-tailed tits are flitting around the bird feeders in our back garden. I do love the long-tailed tit. I love it especially because it is an easily recognisable bird, on account of it having, well,
a long tail. I do like a bird that does what it says on the tin...
It is for that reason that I particularly love the woodpecker (which pecks wood), the turnstone
(which turns stones), the pied wagtail (which wags its tail), the Robin redbreast (for obvious reasons) and the blackbird (which is black.) Mind you, I do take issue occasionally with the blackbird, as the female of the species is brown, rather than
black - but I can’t be cross with them for long because we are lucky enough to have a resident Mr and Mrs Blackbird in our garden. They remind me of Mr B and me, pottering about, doing their own thing, but coming together every so often to check all
is well with each other.
This issue of bird identification is important to me. I joined my Birdy Group a few years ago now, with the aim of learning to identify
more of our feathered friends. I am pleased to report that I now recognise a great many more birds than I did before - though mainly from the informative illustrations in bird books than in the trees, the reeds, the sky above me. Fortunately in those pre-Covid
days, I had plenty of help from other, keenly spotting birders in the group, to tell me where to train my binoculars and (always supposing I was training them in the right direction) what I should be able to see through them. I particularly loved places like
the Warnham Nature Reserve where even I could easily spot the chaffinch, the goldfinch, the nuthatch greedily attacking the food stations installed at strategic intervals along the way simply because they stayed still long enough. It seems such a long time
since we rambled along the banks of the Rife, plodded along the beach in search of sea birds, watched the larks a-rising on the Downs above our home town. I yearn for the day we can meet again...
The approach of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch is focussing my mind on All Things Feathered. In years past, I have pulled our two seater settee into place in front of our patio doors, facing out into the garden
and persuaded Mr B to join me in recording every bird visiting our garden over the course of an hour. Mr B is not much help. He is always pointing out a non-existent Golden Eagle flying overhead or remarking that he is sure he saw a pink flamingo, standing
on one leg in the flower bed.
One of my Birdy Group friends showed me last year (or was it the year before?) the bird count he had submitted to the RSPB.
How had he managed it, I wondered, when my own miserable tally amounted to two magpies and a pigeon. It turned out that he simply entered a list of all the birds which visited his garden, not just over the course of an allotted hour but over a whole season.
Which was cheating, of course, but on a quite magnificent scale.
Tomorrow I am meeting up with granddaughter Eleanor for our daily exercise. Also known to us as
“Walk and Talk.” Last week, wandering through the park, I was able to point out robins, blackbirds, magpies, collared doves, all the usual suspects you might say - “You are so good at spotting birds, Nanni!” Eleanor said, admiringly.
It was such a sweet compliment that I accepted it gracefully.