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January 13th- blue and long-tailed tits

I’ll be honest, I have looked at other birders’ lockdown lists and felt quite envious. Assuming they are sticking to the rules there are some impressive local exercise bird lists. But balancing this my more considerate side says “stop, think how lucky you are”, and this is true. I may not have coast or even wetland large enough to hold more than a few mallard, but I have mixed woodland, a stream, damp meadow and some wonderful views on my doorstep. To walk with my 8 year old son and see this world through a child’s eyes is also deeply informative and enriching. He is not craving more unusual species but delights in the everyday things.

There is however one species I must confess to missing even when our wonderful locality is taken into account- the lapwing. Each winter I look forward spending hours sketching flocks of lapwing. The variety of plumage in a winter flock is astonishing. This relatively common (but seriously declining) wader is surely a contender for Britain’s most beautiful bird? There is also the experience of being out in the cold listening to the flock, studying reflections, seeing it rise when disturbed and enjoying watching the birds settle again. We do however have one or two breeding pairs ten minutes or so walk from the door and it will thrilling, hopefully, to see them return in February or March…

But today I sat in my warm studio and enjoyed sketching blue and long- tailed tits. The long-tailed tits are on the feeders for a larger proportion of the day, probably several different flocks visiting in turn. I have been watching them feed in a bird cherry tree (Prunus padus) which I planted outside my studio. The tree has been established for just three years now but has proved to be a magnet for birds. In autumn chiffchaffs loved feeding on the aphids in its leaves. The now bare branches continue to attract birds. The long-tailed tits explored every branch of the tree today a few feet from where I work.

Some local male blue tits are changing their behaviour as the days lengthen. Many are singing now and some are investigating nest sites, displaying to passing females as they do so. Male blue tits have a beautiful gliding display flight often performed in the vicinity of a potential nest site.

So, as I read impressive lockdown bird lists on Twitter this evening I shall remind myself how lucky I am. There are so many people out there, perhaps some of you reading this now, who would be so grateful to be able to see half of what I can see each day.

1 thought on “January 13th- blue and long-tailed tits”

  1. You are indeed incredibly lucky. I am satisfied with my garden collared doves, sparrows and starlings and occasionally a Robin, Blue Tit or a Goldfinch. Long-tailed tits pass through once or twice a year. And I have fields and woods nearby with a few more species. But limited though this is to a birder, is still hugely better than being in an inner-city area unable to go out, which is the reality for very many. I am amazed at some of the sightings I see posted, knowing that the sites are sometimes far from the person’s residence, or that the same person reports from many very well-separated sites. And mentioning friends they met. Presumably, far, far more are doing the same but have the sense not to incriminate themselves publicly. Somebody told me recently that they heard that a hide on a local nature reserve was “packed”. Everyone has an excuse and thinks someone or something else is responsible for 1500 people reported dead in a day. Our hobby/interest/pasion must not take precedence over social responsibility.

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