This photo was taken yesterday, when it wasn’t windy and raining and cold, and I had seeds for the birds, sun on my face, and this Robin smiled upon me. Joy!
A Robin a day keeps the black dog at bay!
I feel extremely fortunate not to suffer from depression but if I do feel a bit gloomy, Nature is my healer. And just as an apple a day is supposed to keep the doctor away, so the joyful trilling or the determined tick-tick-ticking of a Robin always lifts my spirits and makes me smile.
I’ve been reading a book by a man who has gradually been losing his hearing and, as the book progresses through a year of his life, so he has lost the sounds of certain birds whose songs are no longer within the range of his hearing. I find this incredibly sad but it’s also made me value even more the birds I can hear, like this little Robin. Having finished its breeding and parenting duties and its moult, it’s now singing to stake its claim on a nice bit of territory to see it through the lean months of winter.
In recent days I’ve been spending some time searching for migrating birds, and I’ve had some success, with several Spotted flycatchers, a couple of Tree pipits, and good numbers of Willow warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and both species of whitethroat. Although Redstarts have been seen locally, I haven’t yet managed to find one so, when I caught a reddish flash through the bushes at Cosmeston, I thought I’d got lucky. Unfortunately, it turned out that the flash of red was at the wrong end of the bird – redstart comes from the Anglo-Saxon for ‘red tail’. My little bird had a red breast.
Winter seems finally to have arrived and it was frosty when I arrived at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park early this morning, hoping for a nice long walk before the school holiday crowds arrived. Unfortunately, in my haste to leave home, I forgot to fill my seed container so had nothing to offer the hungry birds. This fluffed-up little Robin was not at all impressed.
‘Art thou the bird whom Man loves best,
The pious bird with the scarlet breast,
Our little English Robin …’
~ from William Wordsworth, ‘The Redbreast Chasing the Butterfly’, 1806
Blogger’s note: This particular little cutie, with whom I shared some quality moments – me chatting and it peeping – at Penarth Heads beach on Monday, is actually a Welsh (not English) Robin. And its breast is really more orange than red but I’ve just this week found out why it was formerly known as Redbreast and described as having a red or scarlet rather than orange breast – it’s because orange as a colour (which originated from the fruit of the same name) was unknown in Britain prior to the mid 16th century.
The biting wind seems to find the smallest crack in your several layers of clothing to nip at exposed flesh, your hands feel frost-bitten even though you’ve got your thickest gloves on, and the tip of your nose is so cold that you can no longer feel it. Yet there on a fence post directly in front of you, equally exposed to the wintery weather, is a chirpy wee Robin, singing its heart out, seemingly oblivious to the chill. How does it do it?
Well, the answer is in the fluffing up of its feathers. If you’ve ever slept under a down- or feather-filled duvet, you’ll know how incredibly warm feathers can be, and that’s especially true for our wee Robin. You see, feathers are a brilliant form of insulation material – feathers trap air close to the bird’s body so, in winter, they trap the warmth of the bird’s body heat. The more fluffed up the feathers are, the more warm air they trap, the more cosy is our little Robin.
birding, birdwatching, blackbird, British birds, chaffinch, coal tit, Common Gull, Cosmeston, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, Gadwall, Great tit, long-tailed tit, Marsh tit, nuthatch, Pochard, Reed bunting, robin, shoveler
7 January Gale-force winds were blasting across the exposed areas around the lake today but, with blue skies overhead, the park was full of people out walking, despite the chill. The wee birds were hungry and I was greeted with much happy peeping wherever I scattered seed and virtually mobbed at the dragon tree in Cogan Woods, by Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed tits, Dunnocks and Robins, Chaffinches and Nuthatches, Blackbirds and a Reed bunting were all happy to accept any tasty little morsels.
On the lakes the birds were mostly hunkered down, as it was too windy for flying. Teal, Gadwall, Pochard and a Shoveler were some of the highlights.
17 January After much scrutinising of the huge numbers of gulls that you nearly always find at Cosmeston, I spotted my first Common gull of the year.
23 January A regular Cosmeston-going birding friend had reported an adult Yellow-legged gull the previous day and I fancied a good walk so I headed to Cossie for a look. These was no sign of the gull but I was delighted to see one of the Marsh tits that frequents a particular spot in Cogan Woods, and it became bird number 67 on this year’s list, before I strode quickly home in pouring rain (yep, drenched!).
I’ve been to Cosmeston a couple more times this month but those outings were more about braving the rain to satisfy my cravings for fresh air and exercise than nature-watching, particularly as it’s been too wet to have camera and binoculars out and about. Let’s hope February is a bit drier.
Neither my age, nor my weight, nor my height (though that comes closest), one hundred and sixty-three is my birding total for 2017 – that is, the total number of species I managed to see in Britain.
This was the first year I’ve kept a count, and it was just out of interest really but, as my more dedicated birding friends post their totals on our Facebook group page (one has 223, another a whopping 252) , I’ve decided to try for a 200-bird year in 2018. That doesn’t mean I’m going to become a mad twitcher or go haring off all over the country to see rare birds. I’m just going to make more of an effort to see as many as I can because I love them so!
And my favourite birding moments in 2017? There were too many to recount, from marvelling at an encounter between a Bittern and a Marsh harrier at RSPB Ham Wall to my frequent local conversations with Robins and chuckles at Tufted ducks, from the joy of watching Avocets with their chicks at Rye Harbour on my birthday to the thrill of seeing feeding Gannets crashing headfirst into the ocean off Dawlish beach, from the lovely little Turnstones than bumble along the embankment in Penarth Marina to the Sand martin that sat and chattered away to me on a railing at Cardiff Bay.
Why just yesterday I had a Great tit land on my hand to grab itself a piece of the flapjack I was sharing with the hungry birds at Cosmeston! Every moment like that, every second spent watching and hearing my feathered friends is joyous!