Meadow yellow

Meadow yellow
Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) in a Devon meadow

Monday, 18 January 2010

Charming birds

The snow has gone from the local area refreshing the landscape view. The picturesque Narnian outlook blanketing fields and coating trees with a magical sparkling white has been transformed back to the drab winter norm of browns and sludgy colours. However admist the relative gloom are suprising signs of spring that at least gives us future hope from the winter hues. Pointy snowdrop growth mixed with bluebells push upwards despite the weather, eager to make the most of well lit woodland before the shade of leaves.

The birds also seem to have shifted their poise, from puffed up hungry desperadoes seeking food, to pulling back a notch on the survival scale, to find time to sing and think of spring activities. Late this afternoon I was therefore taken aback by the noise of a large group of goldfinches, known collectively as a CHARM, that had landed in a tree in the field next to our garden. Quick scans and counting revealed a flock of at least 50, as groups came and went with their constant lively chatter. The latin name Cardeulis cardeulis is presumably derived from it frequently feeding on seeds from thistles, including those from Carduus family. But why a 'charm'? It would seem to be a collective noun used for goldfinces and some other birds since medieval times. A quick internet research did not reveal an answer, but they are certainly very charming birds! If you know, or would like to make a suggestion, please email me at

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