A Bird-Filled Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Rose-ringed Parakeet in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

Dear Readers, I’ve been noticing the gathering pace of spring’s pulse in the cemetery over the past few weeks, but today the signs were everywhere. There was a pair of rose-ringed parakeets in the plane trees close to the chapel, and what a picture they made amongst the tangled branches. The male in the photo above seemed to have a desultory interest in the bauble-like seedheads on the tree, but I could see that he wasn’t very impressed.

His lady friend was on the other side of the tree, about five metres away. They had the air of a long-married pair, surveying their kingdom and trying to decide whether to change the colour of the carpets.

They add such a dash of colour to a dull, still day.

Further along the path, a crow carrying a twig flew into the tree and seemed to be trying to rearrange its burden so that it was easier to carry, before heading off to its nest.

The blossom is really splendid too. Every week I think that it’s at the top of its game, but every week it seems more and more splendid.

I keep thinking that the lesser celandine must  be close to its peak too, but actually I think it’s got a few weeks to go yet. Before I started the blog I wonder if I would even have noticed it, let alone known what it was.

And I’ve grown very fond of this patch of red deadnettle too.

A pair of herring gulls were hanging out near the ant hill, where we’ve spotted green woodpeckers on previous weeks. These two seemed more interested in possible earthworms, and flew off as soon as we got within thirty metres. The bigger the bird the shyer they are it seems.

And then here is something rather exciting, though it might not look it. This is Danish scurvygrass, a member of the cabbage family that has become more common in urban areas because it loves salt, and so thrives in areas where the roads are salted during icy weather. I shall say more in the Wednesday Weed this week, so for now here is a portrait of this unassuming little plant.

And I wonder why some daisies have these bright red petals? They look as if they’ve been snogged by a lipsticked fairy.

There’s some more splendid blossom here too, along with the misty new growth on the trees in the background.

And then here’s a treat. Have a listen to this and see if you know what it is.

Well, sitting at the top of an ash tree was this little chap.

It’s a Eurasian nuthatch (Sitta europeaea) and this one was absolutely singing his head off. Spring is definitely in the air! I’m more used to seeing these birds running along a tree branch rather than sitting boldly on a treetop.

As we cross the stream, we notice that a lot of undergrowth has been cut back, and there are some beehives! Well, there are certainly lots of plants in the cemetery to keep them happy, though I don’t see any activity at the moment.

And then it’s back towards the wild part of the cemetery, past yet more lesser celandine and some more blossom.

And while my heart will always belong to the swamp cypress (who is still looking rather drab at the moment) I think that this tree is sneaking up into my favourites list, if only for its remarkable width to height ratio….

I am much perked up also by my very first violets – there’s an area where they carpet the ground but it’s a bit off our usual route, so I’ll make a special trip next week. Whenever we had a family holiday in the West Country as children, Mum would end up buying something that went by the name of Dorset or Devon Violets – hand cream or talcum powder or something similarly heavily scented. Most of the violets in the cemetery are dog violets so they have no smell, but sweet violets must be really something.

And finally, as we pass the stumpery that I noticed a few weeks ago, I see that it’s crowned by a single parrot tulip. Did someone plant it I wonder, or did it pop up there of its own accord? It seems most incongruous, but very cheering.

And finally, as I walk back along East Finchley High Road I see that the shrubs outside the retirement flats have been pruned. In the middle of one is this object. It looks to me remarkably like a blackbird nest, and yet it’s completely interwoven with shreds of plastic. Some days, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

5 thoughts on “A Bird-Filled Walk in St Pancras and Islington Cemetery

  1. sarah muir

    Another great post with beautiful photographs especially of the trees in blossom. I shall be looking out for Danish scurvy grass that`s a new one on me!

  2. Anne

    “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry” is very true here too, where the fallen nests I find after high winds often contain man-made materials such as string, cloth, plastic tape and so on.

  3. SilverTiger

    I like your sympathetic treatment of parakeets because I am very fond of them too. They are very vociferous, always talking to one another. We saw two fly over yesterday, both alone but still talking!

    It’s curious that gulls are so nervous of people when pigeons, for example, are so blasé that you almost trip over them in the street. I speculate that this is because gulls have started colonising towns relatively recently and still have the wild-bird reaction to pesky humans. They become nervous, too, pf you look at them too insistently. The best way to photograph them close is to avert your gaze while doing it.

    1. Bug Woman Post author

      I find that the gulls get nervous at the sight of a camera too – the woodpigeons in my garden couldn’t care less about being photographed, but when I used to visit my parents in Dorset I could never get closer than about 50 metres, and they’d fly off at the merest sign of a metal object. But then, they are regularly shot in the country…

  4. SilverTiger

    Shooting, yes, that’s something (being a townee) I had not thought of. Perhaps that gives an advantage to folk such as I who use our phones to take photos: the phone is less obviously gunlike than a camera with a telephoto lens!


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