August 21, 2010

This week in wildlife

Image courtesy Chris Lipscombe
I miss the blackbirds at this time of year. After finding their voice when the weather began to warm up, in March, they have been singing all summer, from sill, chimney and gutter, pouring down those unmistakeable liquid notes each afternoon, and especially after rain. Yet now, in August - the month we consider to be summer's grand apex - they are almost invisible, and the city streets and gardens seem silent and deserted.
Like many other birds they are in moult, shedding their feathers bit by bit and waiting while a new set grows in. In spring they have mates to find, territories to defend and young to feed, but now the apex of their year is over, and they need to have a full set of new feathers to get them through winter. And so they skulk about, trying not to draw attention to themselves while their ability to fly is so compromised. Robins sing all year, but we'll hear little from the blackbirds again until winter has passed.