February 25, 2010

This week in wildlife

There are redwings in Palace Road Nature Garden, pretty little thrushes with a smart eye-stripe and brick-red wing flash. They're winter visitors from Scandinavia, moving south to escape winter's bitter grip, and will probably leave in March and return north to breed. Flocks and flocks of them can be seen in the fields and hedgerows in winter, but I think it's unusual to see them this deep into the city. It's been a hard winter, though, and they need to lay in stores of fat to survive the long flight back. They'll take any chance to feed that they can.

Sometimes, when I take Scout out for her evening walk, the streets around our house are completely deserted: no cars, no people and no traffic noise from the High Road, if the wind's in the right direction. We pass in and out of pools of orange light, with only the murmur of a TV from a front room or the occasional shadow of a fox flitting across the pavement to break the spell. Yet around us, I know, are thousands upon thousands of birds, roosting fat and feathered in the hedges, the street trees and the ivy-covered walls, perhaps opening one eye or shaking out a wing as we pass.