Dear Readers, in the midst of the Christmas celebrations I felt an urge to leave the mince pies and the chocolates and get some fresh air. There is something very constraining about the festive season, as if every moment spent without a cracker in one hand and a glass of fizz in the other is wasted, and as much as I love it all, it sometimes gets a bit too much. And so, my lovely husband dragged me off to Cherry Tree Wood, with me complaining bitterly that the potatoes weren’t peeled yet. And I’m very glad he did, because it soon became clear that although the solstice has just passed, all kinds of creatures are just revving up for the new breeding season.
Now, at this juncture I’d like to ask if any of my UK readers have seen the Waitrose Christmas Advert, with its plucky robin hero? I hope that you will be able to see it wherever you are in the world, although you never know with these things….
Anyhow, this has caused a whole flurry of controversy over here in the UK. Do robins migrate, for example? Well, the answer for most UK robins is ‘no’, though females may head south to Spain and Portugal for a bit of warmth and recreation. However! Some Scandinavian and Russian birds do head south and may overwinter in the UK. These birds are, according to the RSPB, lighter in colour and more nervous than our UK garden birds, because in their native countries they live in woodland, rather than in gardens. So, I guess the tale in the Waitrose advert is of an intrepid northern bird coming to the UK as an immigrant. Who knew a supermarket chain could be so subversive?
The next controversy is because the two birds at the end of the advert are sharing a mince pie and feeding one another. In the words of Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle’s Nigel Molesworth, ‘as any fule kno’ robins are intensely territorial and will beat one another up in a frenzy of testosterone-fuelled rage for the slightest incursion. However, it is true that sometimes male and female robins have parallel territories, which they merge in the breeding season, and defend against all comers. Once the youngsters are fledged, the barriers go back up and it’s all-out war again. However, again the RSPB points out that most robins will be paired up by mid-January, so maybe the two in the advert are just getting ahead of the game.
By the way, if you have not come across Nigel Molesworth in your literary investigations, I can heartily recommend ‘The Compleet Molesworth’. You’re welcome.
At any rate, the robins of Cherry Tree Wood still look like a bunch of singletons. As male and female robins are identical, it’s a puzzle to me how they ever do become ‘friends’, but maybe, like a male and female Klingon, they need to dust one another up thoroughly to get the hormones working.
However, for some birds in the wood it’s already time for romance. What are these two ring-necked parakeets up to?
First of all they investigated what looked to me like a very unsuitable nest hole, as, unless it went back into the branch at a very peculiar angle, all the eggs would have dropped out. Then, with much squawking and carry-on, they started to pluck a tiny twig from the surface of the tree.
They certainly seem very lovey-dovey, despite the low temperatures, and this is one of the secrets of their success in the UK. Ring-necked parakeets establish their breeding sites earlier than other hole-nesting birds, so by the time the woodpeckers and the stock doves and the nuthatches feel the call to reproduce, many of the suitable sites will already have cranky residents in situ. And while an angry woodpecker is probably a match for an irate parakeet, I imagine the others would head off, defeated. In spite of which, I rather admire their parroty pluck and belligerent attitude. I just hope there’s enough room for everybody.
And so, another year draws to a close. I hope that all of you have a happy, healthy and inspired 2017, and that the year to come brings everything that you most need in your life. Thank you for reading, for commenting and for supporting my endeavours here. Bless every one of you.
Photo One – the exquisite Nigel Molesworth – https://www.flickr.com/photos/pillager/6629781249
Photo Two – some delightful Klingons – By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21231931
All other blog content free to use and share, but please attribute and link back to the blog, thank you!