Gar­den Bird­ing

Clare on the down­sides of sum­mer and the joys of hav­ing a Cor­morant as a neigh­bour...

Bird Watching (UK) - - Contents -

It’s still light – and warm enough to sit out­side on a blan­ket and look down to the river. The rather un-bri­tish heat has come as a shock to us all I think, and while it has its ad­van­tages, there’s a lot of down­sides to it as well. Take the river, nor­mally so clear. It’s now pea-soup green, like Shrek has been pureed. The birds don’t seem too im­pressed and the swans look highly ir­ri­tated hav­ing to wade through the swamp to get out onto the bank. You could ar­gue they al­ways look an­gry, but I’ve hung around with them long enough to know when they are re­ally cross and the il­lu­mi­nous green clings to their feath­ers. And its name? Duck­weed. It’s full of pro­tein and while some birds may eat it, it ac­tu­ally car­pets the river so much it starves the wildlife be­low of oxy­gen and sun­light, mak­ing it rather trou­ble­some in­deed. There’s the is­sue of lit­ter get­ting caught in it, too. Up river from me is The Mead­ows, where peo­ple love to con­gre­gate in the sum­mer eat­ing bags of chips and drink­ing beer. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Some peo­ple, how­ever, are to­tal mo­rons who think throw­ing lit­ter is a good idea and this is now get­ting caught in the weed. Right now, as I write this, I am look­ing straight at what could be a bot­tle of Stella or Becks. A few months back, a fully-in­flated pad­dling pool sailed past the bot­tom of my gar­den. There was no one in it. I tried to get to it but failed. I tweeted a photo of it to the lo­cal river trust and it was sorted out af­ter a rather en­ter­tain­ing ex­change. Aside from thirsty birds, there’s been a very hun­gover­look­ing Hedge­hog whom I’ve had to pick up care­fully, and put in a crate with a saucer of wa­ter. It’s ex­tremely cute watch­ing him take sips of it and when he’s done, I pick him up and he’s ready to take on life – Hedge­hog style. It’s easy to say you shouldn’t in­ter­vene, but some­times even the most in­de­pen­dent of species need a lit­tle help and, with many of our na­tive an­i­mals un­der threat, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to look af­ter them as best we can. Thank­fully, most of the wildlife in the gar­den seems to be cop­ing well enough with the heat. The smaller birds bathe in the old tin bath and the pi­geon ap­pears to drink it all. The res­i­dent Cor­morant seems to be do­ing very well, in­deed. I know I’m re­ally lucky to be able to see him

nearly ev­ery day. If you think swans look cross, you should see him. I wasn’t in­tend­ing to tell you about him this month, but as I started writ­ing, I heard a big splosh and went to in­ves­ti­gate. It was the Cor­morant and I de­cided it was a sign. So, what can I tell you about him? I’ve never seen any young and when I first saw him, I thought some­one was about to die. Maybe that sounds harsh but they are quite sin­is­ter look­ing and could eas­ily be an ex­tra in Juras­sic Park if they needed the ex­tra cash. Some fish­er­men hate them be­cause they are so good at fishing. Al­low me to say this, dear fish­er­men a) the cor­morant was there long be­fore you ap­peared, and you’re in his back­yard, not the other way round and b) are you go­ing to eat the fish you catch? No? Well, leave it for him. Other fish­er­men en­joy the sight of this rep­til­ian crea­ture with pre­his­toric fea­tures as it’s a clear in­di­ca­tion that plen­ti­ful fish stocks are close at hand. As with all these sce­nar­ios, there’s a del­i­cate bal­ance but it’s per­fectly pos­si­ble for us to play to­gether nicely. Watch­ing the Cor­morant dis­ap­pear un­der the wa­ter is thrilling. And then you wait. Hold your breath and count – you could be wait­ing 60 sec­onds for him to ap­pear again. When he’s fin­ished din­ing, he will of­ten stand per­fectly still with wings half fanned out star­ing be­fore tak­ing to the sky, fly­ing as straight as a dart, head­ing for a bullseye. Al­ways on tar­get, these birds are smart and dy­namic and so long as you’re not a self­ish fish­er­man, you’ve ev­ery rea­son to love them.

Clare pon­ders on the ‘pea-soup green’ river near her gar­den

As well as gar­den birds, Clare has also helped out a Hedge­hog

Although a pro­tein-source for birds, Duck­weed is bad for other wildlife

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