Thursday, 5 November 2015

Did I Mention the Crows?

We seemed to be followed by Crows when we did our monthly bird survey on 30 October. Noisy Crows, mean and hungry looking Crows. Perhaps they were warming up for Halloween next day. And the weather was sombre too, even after the rain stopped which meant many of the birds kept quiet and out of view. We saw most of the regulars, though not in great numbers and heard the occasional burst of Wren song around the wood and Upper Eastern Road. The Crows were there too, waiting for us in the autumnal trees.

We were expecting to see a few gulls on the cricket pitch when we reached the north field. They have been moving into Inner London for the winter. In the event, there was one solitary Black-headed Gull on the ground and maybe three or four up in the sky. That name - and I say this every year - is misleading. In spring and summer, its head is a beautiful chocolate brown colour; in winter, its head is white albeit with a small dark patch behind the eye. Note the red legs and bill.

The best bird of the day - our reward for two hours of trudging - was waiting for us in the Cliffview hedge: a Coal Tit, seen briefly but clearly before flying away. The Coal Tit has a black head, hence its name, and is the same size as a Blue Tit. It has a prominent white patch at the back of the head. We've seen them before on Hilly Fields but not often. By the way, there were some Crows nearby too.

Photo by Ian F, BirdForum 
Actually, Crows are good to have around on the whole. They band together and mob birds of prey, driving them away, thus providing a service for the small bird community. And maybe saving a few pigeons too. Also, if you look closely, you'll see that their plumage isn't pure black but has some very subtle tinges of blue.

The full list of birds seen and/or heard comprises Wood Pigeons, Feral Pigeons, House Sparrows, Ring-necked Parakeets, Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Goldfinches, a Coal Tit, a Black-headed Gull, Magpies and, er, Crows. A total of 14 species in all. And so after finishing our circuit, we trudged up the hill to the cafe. You'll never guess which bird turned up there.

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