Hidden in Plain View

img_8609-2Dear Readers, I don’t know about you, but for me it’s been a hard week. Every new day has brought news of hatred and bigotry. People that I know and love on both sides of the Atlantic are angry and frightened about what’s happening, and what might happen. What is there to uplift the heart? Outside my window, the birds are going about their business as usual, bickering on the bird feeders. The collared doves in particular are using my garden as a breakfast bar, and last week I counted fourteen birds in the whitebeam tree waiting for their turn. I wondered what would happen if I increased the shutter speed on my camera to try to capture them in flight. And, although the results are far from perfect (I should definitely clean my kitchen window for one thing), I wanted to share them with you.

img_8612-2In the wing we see the perfect meshing of beauty and efficiency. The bird above is about to take-off and we can see the way that the wings are concave to increase lift on the downstroke. The few raised feathers on the bird’s ‘shoulder’ are called the alula, and are attached to what would, in other animals, be the ‘thumb’. This enables the bird to get greater lift at low speeds without stalling. The extended fan shape of the primary and secondary feathers on the edges of the wing maximise its area. Everything works together to enable the bird to take off. This happens all around us, every day, but at speeds too fast for us to normally see.

img_8619Here we can see a bird taking off in a hurry, swivelling its body and, again, increasing its wing volume to make sure that it doesn’t stall. Oh, and in the background a squirrel is attempting to dismantle the bird feeder. They have learned how to unscrew the metal perches that attach the plastic feeding spots to the tube, so that the seed pours out onto the tray and they can hoover it up at will. Clever squirrels!

img_8613-2Wings are strong but surprisingly flexible structures. Individual primary and secondary feathers can be controlled by muscles attached to the fine, hollow bones. Look at the angle of the individual feathers on the right hand wing, which have been separated to allow airflow over each one for maximum control. The fanning out of the tail feathers also slows the bird down as it comes into land.

img_8615-2It doesn’t take much to disturb the collared doves, unfortunately: a slammed door, a sudden movement, and they’re off, wheeling and flapping. They can fly perfectly well without making the ‘flap’ sound, so I think it’s often an alarm signal to the other birds. Collared doves don’t seem to have any kind of flock structure, and are monogamous, so maybe the noise is meant mainly for their mate.

img_8620I always found collared doves to be subtle birds, both in their colouration and their behaviour. They were just ‘there’ and I have gotten used to them being around. But these photos have really made me look at them again.So, lastly, I want to share with you my favourite image. It is ‘noisy’ and could have been sharper, I know. But there is something about the glory of those wings that fills me with awe and takes me out of my anxious brain for a few moments. The hamster wheel of ‘what-ifs’ stops. Dear Readers, let’s pause, feel the earth beneath our feet and be aware of our living, breathing world. It will provide solace and strength, if we let it.

img_8628-2All photos copyright Vivienne Palmer. Free to use and share non-commercially, but please attribute and link back to the blog, thank you!

13 thoughts on “Hidden in Plain View

  1. Toffeeapple

    All of your images are good but the last one is the best of all.

    I don’t have TV but I am avoiding switching the radio on and I never read newspapers so, effectively, I have my head in the sand. There is nothing whatsoever that I can do about anything man-made but I can enjoy the vision of wildlife and carry on reading my early 20th Century women writers. Don’t despair!

  2. Naomi Racz

    Thanks for sharing these lovely photos. Collared doves are one of my favourite birds, they’re so beautiful. You are lucky to be able to enjoy them in your own garden!

    1. Bug Woman

      Thanks, Naomi! Collared doves really are birds of suburbia – I see them around human habitation, but not in the centre of London or in the ‘real’ countryside. Maybe there’s too much competition from feral pigeons in town, and wood pigeons in the wilds. But they certainly seem to have taken to my little patch. It must be the sunflower hearts that do it1

  3. Andrea Stephenson

    Beautiful images of birds in flight Vivienne. I grew up with collared doves visiting our family garden and think of them as quite sedate birds – in comparison to say woodpigeons. But I rarely see them these days – possibly because I don’t have a garden, possibly because they aren’t as common as they used to be (?). But I have begun to see a couple in one of the local parks I go to, which is nice.

    1. Bug Woman

      Hi Andrea, I think they’ve actually increased in population but I do think they’re quite local. They’ve also largely taken over the areas where turtle doves used to be common – the numbers of those birds have plummeted for a variety of reasons, one of which is that, unlike collared doves, turtle doves migrate to Africa and are so often shot as they pass over Europe. Everything changes, it seems….

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