The Dunnock often get dismissed as an ordinary and dull LBJ (little brown job). I assume its detractors and dismissers have never actually looked at the subtle intricacies of its plumage because it is a seriously handsome bird.
Today, just a visual celebration of the little brown bird that’s been entertaining me in recent weeks, belting out its joyful song from the top of every hedge and bush. Once, and still to many, the Hedge sparrow; now, officially, the Dunnock; always, a stunning little songster.
On Sunday, I blogged about the wildflowers I’ve recently found still blooming in local farm fields. When I’ve been wandering those field edges, I have, of course, also been keeping one eye on the skies, to see what birds might be enjoying this currently unmanaged farmland. Here’s a selection …
There were several species of winter thrushes feeding in berry trees – Song thrushes, Redwings and a small flock of Fieldfares, and a large number of Blackbirds, the only ones I managed to photograph.
Two Chiffchaffs were chasing each other through tree branches. They’re late migrating but some Chiffchaffs do remain in Britain so maybe these two will stay local this winter.
A juvenile Dunnock was calling constantly, presumably for its parents, but they may well have decided it was time to cut the parental ties.
Reed buntings aren’t always found in reeds. A family of three were flitting from hedge to field, foraging for seeds and insects.
The Dunnock has some wonderful vernacular names. From my Fauna Britannica: Billy (Oxfordshire); blue Isaac (Gloucestershire); dickie (Lancashire); hedge Betty (Warwickshire); Philip (Ireland); blue Tom (Stirlingshire); hedge Mike (Sussex) – these are just a few of the 49 names listed, from all parts of Britain. It’s no wonder, as the Dunnock is one of the most common of British birds.
It may be dun coloured (hence its most common name, though some people still call it by its former name of Hedge sparrow) but its small frame is packed with character.
This particular bird was so intent on blasting out its song today that it almost ignored me, standing on the muddy path in front of it. Another Dunnock was singing its territory and attractiveness as a mate from a nearby bush so I think there was a little competition going on.
You might remember the ‘Tiny bird, huge voice’ blog a week ago, about the sound being blasted out by a male Wren. Well, another bird, though not so small, can currently be seen, sitting high on tree branches and hedge tops, also blasting out its ‘Look at me’ song, though not as loudly as the tiny Wren. This small brown bird, once known as the Hedge sparrow, is the Dunnock, and he too sings a merry tune.
Apparently, a jovial is one of the traditional collective nouns for the Dunnock (Prunella modularis). Now don’t get me wrong, I love these little brown birds, I really do, but jovial is not an adjective I would normally use to describe them.
Indeed, I can empathise with the sarcasm of this birder’s comments: ‘Any birdwatcher worth his salt knows of the joy brought about by watching a dull brown bird dullishly dull about in a dull shrub. Indeed, I find myself incredibly jovial every time I think I’ve seen a good bird and it turns out to be a dunnock.’
However, while this little fledgling didn’t look anything like jovial, it certainly did make me smile. And, though my wander around Cosmeston produced some nice migrating birds, the highlight of my Monday was watching this little dumpling hopping along the path in front of me.
There was snow on the hills north of Cardiff on Saturday morning so I thought I’d try to get closer to take some photos but also combine that with a good walk. So, I jumped on a train and went a’stomping. Unfortunately, by the time I got closer, the snow had mostly melted away, which wasn’t helped by the fact that the footpath I had intended to follow, along the eastern side of the Llanishen and Lisvane reservoirs, was closed. So, I contented myself with a wander through the Nant Fawr woodlands and, afterwards, a circuit of Roath Park Lake.
I was rewarded with the sight, albeit distant, of my very first Brambling – my shots are heavily cropped so you’ll just have to take my word for it!
A small group of House sparrows was dotting about in bushes at the woodland edge.
I always thought Carrion crows were mostly solitary birds but this flock of about 20 proved me wrong.
The wood-tapping of this Great spotted woodpecker helped direct my lens in its direction, as did the singing of this little Dunnock.
And Song thrushes and Blackbirds were enjoying a hearty lunch of berries along the hedgerows.
I had a meeting at Forest Farm last Friday so, of course, I took the opportunity while I was there to have a wander around the trails and along the Glamorganshire Canal. And it was wonderful, though I did come away feeling a little guilty. We’d had a week of low temperatures, with overnight frosts, and there was a bitterly cold wind blowing. It was obvious the wee birds were cold and hungry but I hadn’t taken any seed with me. Here are a Long-tailed tit, a male Bullfinch, a Dunnock, a Robin and a Great tit.
The water of the canal was sheltered from the breeze and very still, making for some stunning reflections (thank you little Moorhen). And I was treated to excellent views of a female Kingfisher, who sat for at least 15 minutes on her branch. From the way her feathers were fluffed up and she was hunched over her ‘toes’, I figure she was feeling the cold as well.
The Great spotted woodpecker was a treat, as were the Treecreepers – at least four of them, perhaps a family group, were actively scuttling up the branches in one small area by the canal. It was a grand day – my meeting went well and the birding was even better than expected!