Meadow yellow

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

Monday, 11 January 2010

Murder at the Pinfold

I sat eating beans on toast with the family at our home, the Pinfold, with half an eye on the garden. Outside the kitchen window we have a birdtable, fat ball and peanut hangers. These have proved increasingly popular during the recent cold snap, attracting; tits, robins, thrushes, the occassional nuthatch and woodpecker. We have also observed several failed attempts by a sparrowhawk(s) to catch these birds unawares. We rarely see more than it flash past, often alerted by the sudden panic that it provokes. Yesterday however it was successful. A flash. Panic. Empty swinging hangers. We looked about and spotted a male perched on a nearby horizontal tree bough beginning to pluck a long-tailed tit. Before long the snowy branch was stained red as it expertly processed its meal. For at least fifteen minutes the family took turns to watch; partly in distaste (well at least my recently converted vegan daughter), but mainly in wonder at the perfection of the bird and its efficient execution technique. We could also take our time admiring the bird's sleekness, orange facial blush markings and striped pyjama like legs with yellow stick legs. It may seem to be a cruel act, but we can't have such top predators without the numerous small birds. Fortuneately the long-tailed tit is a rare success story over the last decade or so as they have adapted to feeding on garden hangers, and as a result is now one of our top 10 garden birds according the the RSPB.

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