Monday, 30 March 2009

Goldfinches and Dunnocks . . . and others

Yesterday was officially the first day of British Summer Time and I was delighted to see three Goldfinches on the evergreen honeysuckle. It's been months since any of these brightly feathered little birds visited the garden, even though Niger seed is always available for them, and although they didn't stay long, it was cheering to see them. I shall be watching out to see if they return on this wonderfully fresh green and gold day. They always bring a smile to my face, with their clownish make-up and it's rare to see only one. They seem to enjoy each other's company and feed companionably together, unlike the Starlings, who arrive in noisy crowds to squabble and shriek as they jockey for position on the feeders and then, at an unseen signal, speed away kamikaze style.

Later in the day I noticed a pair of Dunnocks. The female was flirting her tail and fluttering her wings in a winsome way and every time her chosen mate turned away she shifted her position and pointed her wiggling rump at him again. Dunnocks have an interesting sex life. While some are monogamous others are clearly exponents of 'open marriage' and will take many partners. A polygynous male may mate a polyandrous female which has given rise to the mouth-filling adjective polygynandrous. It sounds exhausting but guarantees that the genes are passed on . . . and on . . . and on, though whose offspring is whose must be difficult to determine. However, for the polyandrous female it ensures that there will be plenty of adults available to feed the fledglings since each male will have a vested interest in the well-being of the brood.

A huge crow came onto the patio after feeding on the fish food. I was ready to dash out and defend the Collared Doves but Mr Crow flew straight past the holly tree without a sideways glance, apparently completely indifferent. Maybe he's waiting for the eggs to hatch. Cunning birds, Crows, but I do admire them as they strut about the garden, black intelligent eyes ever watchful. Sometimes one will sit atop one of the arches and bow to our black Labrador – she gazes back, entranced.

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