Saturday, June 14, 2008

Report from the den: birds - their brains, songs and barbaric nature

The writing den is also doubling as a rather good hide from the birds. Quite often I hear a couple of heavy-footed pigeons walking around on my roof and just now I heard a curious little tapping just in front of my window. It turned out to be an (evil) thrush with a snail on the patio. I witnessed the last few assaults on the shell, and then, since it was too late to intervene, the delicate pecking out of the slimy morsel. I'd never seen a thrush doing that so close before. It was somehow mesmerising.

In other news, I am happy to report that Mario the blackbird has now found a friend to sunbathe alongside him, and for several minutes the two of them lay prone on a sunny patch of grass, beaks open, wings and tails outspread. Mario, I have decided, is the bird brain of birdbrains. I doubt he will survive until Autumn.

I have also noticed that the birds seem to be imitating electronic gadgets in their songs. One sounds exactly like a mobile phone ringing at the start of his little repertoire, and another has the startling stridency of a car alarm. I am sure I have never heard bird song like this before, and feel certain that whatever bird is doing the singing, like parrots, can imitate what they hear.


Blogger stu said...

Birds are better at imitation than most people think. The ones around our house have taken to spooking the cat by whistling in a way that sounds scarily like a meow.

Sat Jun 14, 06:21:00 pm  
Anonymous rpg said...

Evil? Thrushes?

They are the gardener's friend. 'Evil' does not apply. Pure, unthinking instinct: amoral.

Sun Jun 15, 11:15:00 am  
Anonymous Clare said...

Whoa - impressive, Stu! Sounds like Mario could do with some instruction!

Sun Jun 15, 10:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Brian said...

Hi RPG: Yes, very evil! Especially if you happen to be a snail. Take no notice of that instinct excuse - it's all a smoke screen.

Sun Jun 15, 10:05:00 pm  
Anonymous Clare. said...

Great poem, BTW. I'd not read that one before - it's wonderful. Thanks for the link.

Sun Jun 15, 10:07:00 pm  
Blogger Gondal-girl said...

oh I have hope for your Mario...perhaps he has some knowledge we don't know of. there are a lot of birds in my novel, so I am intrigued about these ones you mention, am used to the Australian ones - a thrush sounds so lovely...

have been watching birds from my desk too, a native dove ( speckled ) and a few Crows and a few Currawongs...

Are you settled in happy now in the den? ( still green)

Mon Jun 16, 09:26:00 am  
Anonymous rpg said...

Hi Brian

I prefer to think of thrushes as allies in the defence of my tomatoes.

Clare: you're welcome :)

Mon Jun 16, 12:54:00 pm  
Blogger Gregory Norminton said...

Hi Clare. How lucky for you to have a work shed: I hope you're enjoying it.

On the suject of birds and imitation: blackbirds have long been known to add urban sounds to their repertoire. Mobile phones, the old internet dial-up warble and car alarms seem to have been most frequently recorded. However, the real champion imitator must be the starling, which hoards other bird calls as well as human noises and repeats them pell-mell in amongst its whistles and clicks. The appropriately named birdsong recorder, Geoff Sample, has a one-minute recording of a starling giving its version of (if I remember) 4 other birds, including the curlew and some kind of seagull.

There. Bird factoids for your pleasure.

Mon Jun 16, 03:22:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Thanks Gregory - fascinating stuff. I am going to look into this, I think it needs more investigation!

Sounds like you have quite an exotic menagerie outside your window, Gondal Girl! Of course what is 'exotic' to me, is ordinary to you, I suppose...

And rpg - my very best wishes to your tomatoes - although I think you are depriving snails of well-earned snacks :-)

Tue Jun 17, 09:08:00 am  
Blogger Gondal-girl said...

that is the first thing that struck me about the UK when I first went, hearing the birds in the morning, they were beautiful and ancient and familiar, but not mine.

Would love to see a Robin, but that is thanks to the Secret Garden I think...

Tue Jun 17, 01:32:00 pm  

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