Sunday, 23 March 2008

Almost as early in the calendar as it can be, Easter has been typical this year. Flurries of snow interspersed with bright sunshine and cool winds. Our garden birds continue to respond to the lengthening days and have not been put off by the weather. I had lots of gardening jobs to do but stayed inside in the warm!
From the kitchen window I watched a courting couple of dunnocks (aka the hedge sparrow, aka the hedge accentor) flicking wings and collecting nesting material.
Often overlooked or confused with female house sparrows (with whom they have a passing resemblance) the dunnock is a garden favourite. Although not having the striking plumage of a chaffinch or a jay, its smart, tidy appearance (like a spinster in a tweed suit) gives it a character all of its own.
Appearances are deceptive. The female is not monogamous and actively seeks other males with which to mate.
When not involved in steamy liasons, it can often be seen beneath the bird table where it flits about hunting for fallen seeds or insect food.
Its song is as self-effacing as the bird itself, quiet and easily overlooked.
A garden with a bird table, a water supply and plenty of shrubs and climbers makes for an ideal dunnock habitat. With these in place you may find their nest, which is a tightly woven cup of fibres into which are laid five or so beautiful blue eggs.

This photo was taken at the Eden Project in Cornwall, where birds have colonised the famous biodomes and now live their lives entirely under plastic.

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