Thursday, 11 June 2009

Tweet tweet, Little birdies, Tweet tweet.

Like most people I have an interest in birds (the feathered variety, silly) though, unlike a good friend, I'm no 'twitcher'. My friend is fanatical in the extreme. Rumour has it his wife sits on the end of his bed in a penguin suit when she wishes to arouse him. But my limited interest in our feathered friends was heightened recently by two separate occurrences.
My wife and I (shades of royalty again!) spent a delightful three days in our motorhome recently not far, in a straight line from the Minsmere RSPB Nature Reserve in Suffolk. The surroundings were magical, around half a mile from the road, the only noise the constant sound of birds singing. (Where I live in Derby the birds don't sing, they just make coughing noises!) I recorded some of the birdsong, partly to amuse my friend, partly to test his undoubted identification skills.
In the pub at home a week later I tested his knowledge. Imagine my surprise when the first song I had recorded turned out to be a nightingale. Now in my ignorance I thought nightingales only sang at night. A strange noise, someone described it as akin to a person using a hubble bubble pipe but definitely a first for me. Twitchers eat your heart out! (I reckon I've now seen or heard at least fifty different birds in my longish life. My twitcher friend has seen almost five hundred!)
We visited mother in law this week. She lives in the picturesque village of Ashover twenty or so miles north of Derby. Gardens there attract a better class of bird life than dour old Derby.
We watched the various birds using the feeders thoughtfully provided by mother in law Francoise.The usual type of feeder containing nuts loved by bluetits and the like. We marvelled at their ingenuity as they extracted food from the containers via the wire mesh. Until on closer examination my wife realised one bird was upside down INSIDE the container,well and truly stuck. Evidently the bluetits have mastered the art of entering the container from the top, head downwards, seizing a whole nut, turning one hundred and eighty degrees and exiting the container again from the top, complete with prize. Easy peasy for a tiny agile bluetit, definitely not easy for a growing young starling. With some difficulty we dismantled the feeder and extracted the starling and off he (surely it must have been a male) flew squawking as he went (was that thanks or showing indignation?) The only thing hurt seemed to be his pride.
Now you amateur bird experts 'cum' psychologists out there. How did the starling learn his 'trick'. Did he copy the bluetit. Is it natural behaviour to enter a feeder upside down. Are some birds brighter than others and are starlings particularly stupid. Are they stupid enough to try it again. Finally, is all this the reason that sometimes we say people are 'bird brained'?

14 comments:

Granny on the Web said...

Oh what a fun read.! I can just imagine the dilemma. I don't expect you got thanked for the indignity the starling felt, but how lucky you were on hand at just the right moment.
Looks like you were staying on a CL site, hope it didn't get too boggy... all this rain this past week.
I don't know the answer to whether the starling learnt the upside down trick from a blue tit, could be...
How fantastic is that? you heard a nightingale and didn't know it.

Love the post.
Love Granny

Parisgirl said...

My parents live in Suffolk and I can vouch there are a lot of birds there. What a bloody racket every morning! I read recently you shouldn't record birdsong in the morning; apparently it's far too strident.
Lovely post.

Jennyta said...

I think some birds are brighter than others and maybe the starling copied the bluetit or maybe he discovered the ruse by chance for himself. Glad you managed to rescue him though. (Yes, it must have been a male! ;))

rosiero said...

I've seen squirrels try to do the same. So glad you managed to rescue the poor bird.

cheshire wife said...

It is nice to know that it is not just humans that do stupid things! I expect that it was a male bird showing off.

Anonymous said...

We have a cage for large fat balls, we had to make a lid for it after a blackbird got stuck inside.

Shammickite said...

I think that starling copied the smaller blue tits. They are very clever birds. My garden has a multi-apartment bird house mostly inhabited by sparrows, and every spring there are starlings harassing the sparrows and trying to steal hard-earned nesting materials out of the nest boxes. It started off a few years ago with only one starling, and now there are many trying to do the same thing. Learned behaviour? Possibly.

Nota Bene said...

Bet the starling was feeling a complete tit.

Sorry

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

Poor starling - glad you managed to rescue him. Great post Ken. A

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Grannie
No nightingales in derbyshire as far as I know. The site was a 5 van site(camping club hideaway. absolutely brilliant. Thanks for kind words.

Parisgirl
How funny even birds can annoy. Lovely county, but very upmarket I reckon.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Jennyta
Hi
Went to look at your blog to see what a 'humanist councellor' does but couldn't get in. Fascinating.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

rosiero
It makes you wonder how many animals come to grief in the wild. We have a limping dove visiting. I wonder how he did his leg damage.

cheshire wife.
Don't we males get some stick sometimes! But I suppose we deserve it.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

anonymous
Thanks for visiting. Come out, come out whoever you are?

Shammickite
Flipping heck, seemingly even bird life is never simple.

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Nota Bene
Brilliant, a man after my own heart!

Anne
How sympathetic ladies always are! Thanks for kind words.