Thursday, July 16, 2009

herons and rooks

"It has been statistically proven that there are more common birds than there are rare birds", lamented Bill Oddie during a dull week-end's birding. He also noted that some particularly rare and spectacular species seem to only ever show themselves to non-birdwatchers. To a certain extent I can now vouch for this.

e.g. I'm getting really bored with great white egrets. On Tuesday I was at Climping Beach in W Sussex and I looked up and there was a big white heron flying above me. But I've already seen another one this year; it was fishing in a pool near the mouth of the River Brue at Highbridge. I don't really know much about birds. I can't tell a missel thrush from a song thrush, (I can't even spell mistle), and for anything I know to the contrary warblers are a purely fictional kind of bird. So why am I dogged by birds that aren't even in the birdbook?

This must be a good confident time for herons. Was the time, not so long ago neither, when the grey heron was so timid that it flapped wearily out of a stream the moment you even had a passing memory of that stream, even though you lay at the time in foreign custody and had not been near the stream for twenty years,... anyhow, these same herons are now so insensible that they snooze hunched up while we trudge past them, though barely 6 feet away on the far side of a ditch.

On the way home we still had an end of stale loaf that had been intended for ducks, but we hadn't met any ducks. I thought I would try feeding it to some rooks who were pecking at a strip of turf beside the motorway services. Only one or two were in range. They were surprised and extremely suspicious, but couldn't resist snatching the bits I had managed to chuck furthest. There was a fairly clear message of "No-one's ever done this before, are you sure you wouldn't rather shoot us and hang us upside-down from a gibbet?" Rooks close to have a very disneyish appearance with a sort of Mersey cut and a cartoon conk. When I had finished casting stale bread and I walked away, about forty rooks descended in a joyous squabbling mass, in which I could still distinguish a faint note of incredulity.

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