Saturday, 13 December 2014

Week 47: Birds along the Bulbourne


I fancied a spot of pre-Christmas birding this week, concentrating on the River Bulbourne between Two Waters Road and where it meets the canal on Station Moor. I’m a sucker for our feathered friends. They have a unique effect on me. I spy a bird and I’m transported to a state of simple, primitive happiness. As my brain catches up: what’s not to like about a creature that is covered in thousands of perfectly formed, downy quills, arranged in patterns subtle or pronounced and which require tending to, with delicate care, through a fascinating life cycle of moult and wear? No other organism can look you in the eye, spread its wings and then rise into the skies come rain or shine. Each species, and each individual within that species, has a unique character or pattern of behaviour which, when observed over time, gives a sense of one connecting with, and relating to, that which is fundamentally wild and free. There’s nothing like it!

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea), preening
And so, on a bright Monday morning, I set off for the river. At one point, I was crouching down on the bank, photographing the immature female Kingfisher, when a Grey Wagtail flew in. It landed close to me, perching over the water, and began to preen in the sunshine. S/he wasn’t concerned by my watching and spent a good five minutes poking its bill into its feathers, smoothing them out, fluffing them up and doing a very good impression of a contortionist. It’s at moments like this that observing with a camera really comes into its own. Movements which are complete in the blink of an eye are frozen in time and you give yourself the opportunity to see exactly what’s going on. The photographs opposite show the bird grasping a single feather and then running its bill along the length of the shaft to bring each vane into line. Such care and precision. Beautiful.

Just fifteen minutes earlier, the young female Kingfisher had made a similar approach. She’d been perched across the river from where I was sitting but suddenly decided to fly towards me. She touched down only a few metres away and just sat there. I felt as though I should hold my breath, concerned that even the slightest movement would scare her off. Magical.


Other birds along the length of the river included the bobbing, diving Little Grebe; a handful of Mallards; at least 7 Moorhens; a Little Egret; one adult and one immature Grey Heron; flocks of Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Blackbirds; 4+ Wrens; 15+ House Sparrows and 40+ Starlings; c12 Black-headed Gulls; 7+ Magpies; a handful of Jays, Crows, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons; a few Mistle Thrushes and a number of territorial Robins. Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch and Greenfinch are regularly around but I didn’t see/hear them on Monday. Sparrowhawk and Kestrel frequently patrol the area but, again, neither came through whilst I was there at the beginning of the week.

Black-headed Gull

I willed this little Robin to look up before taking flight but telepathy failed



It’s The Box Moor Trust’s volunteers’ Christmas lunch next week so if you’re involved in that, I shall look forward to seeing you there. In the meantime, I’ll finish off with this week’s Oak photograph, taken on Wednesday, just before midday.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing shots yet again. The light is so perfect and your description of your king fisher encounter really does sound magical. The shot of her is stunning. From ARF

Martin Parr said...

Awesome work yet again Lucy!! You really should be writing professionally. RSPB's magazine would be an ideal vehicle for you! Great pics, as ever, and once again you've reminded me that I'm really not getting out enough!

Boxmoor, naturally... said...

I’m sure I don’t deserve such nice comments but thank you both very much indeed :o). Martin, I know what you mean about getting out. At this time of year it’s rather hit and miss, especially if you want decent light for photography. Any cloud cover and you’re scuppered.

Dan at Hemel Nature said...

I love that Kingfisher shot Lucy, brilliant the way the background perfectly frames her. Fantastic post as always. Dan.

Boxmoor, naturally... said...

Hi Dan. Thank you :o).