Arnside and beyond

By gladders

The Boss

There are at least six blackbirds regularly coming to our garden for food, three males and three females. This hen blackbird, perched on our young Gingko tree, is the largest of them, and indisputably she's boss, they all defer to her in the pecking order.

The hen lacks the dapper black plumage and bright orange bill of the male, but she's a handsome, subtly marked bird nevertheless, and what this one lacks in bright plumage, she makes up for with attitude. While the others are flighty if we approach, this lady stands her ground and waits for the food to be dished out. She's no fool though, she has an eye on Bob the Cat, and he can't get close. Not that he's really trying, as a mature and dignified feline, he prefers to watch birds rather than chase them.

A lot of British blackbirds are resident and stay close to their breeding territories in winter. It may be no coincidence that we have 6 regular birds now, since we had 3 pairs here in the breeding season, with territories that overlapped in the garden. That said, there is a large influx of blackbirds in the winter from the continent, and where you see large numbers feeding, say on windfall apples - as we did last week when we were in Bishop Wilton - they are likely to include winter visitors.

It was an overcast, cool day with not a hint of sunshine from dawn till dusk. I went for a walk around the Arnside headland. This coincided with the rising tide, and I watched the flocks of waders and wildfowl shifting from sandbank to sandbank and then to roosts as the tide came in. I took lots of pictures, but in low light they were blurry little blobs, so Mrs B is today's blip.

ps I forgot to add my new birds for the day: redwing, kestrel, lapwing, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit, red-breasted merganser, and goldcrest. Total for 2011: 60 species.

ps. Today, the 5th I counted 12 blackbirds in one small part of the garden - rather more than I thought we had. The boss is still in charge though, fanning her tail and clucking loudly.

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