Having reported in my last article of a spectacular break in of a Woodcock into a bedroom in Dovercourt Road I have now to report what came to me as another attempted break in. This time it was of all things a Goldcrest, our smallest British Bird which was reported to be assaulting the window of one of the doctors’ surgeries at Elm Lodge at the top of Burbage Road and proving to be a considerable distraction from the good doctor’s consultations. “What was it doing?” I was asked.
As for most things in nature there was an explanation. When I visited I did not see the occurrence but observed that there was a conifer close to and at the rear of the building, the preferred habitat and breeding site for Goldcrests and there was indeed to be heard the vigorous high pitched song of a male Goldcrest coming from it. What I realized was happening was that the Goldcrest had spotted his reflection in the window and had mistaken it for a competitor to be expelled at all costs. This is a well recognized piece of behaviour in small birds particularly Tits, but I had not heard it before as a feature of Goldcrests. A Blue Tit was photographed in The Times recently attacking its reflection in a car wing mirror. The Goldcrest bears the Latin name Regulus Regulus which means Little King and its American cousins are known in the USA as Kinglets, so perhaps the aggressive behaviour has a history.
Apparent idiosyncratic behaviour is not uncommon and Brian Green has an obsessional Blue Tit that insists on removing dead leaves from above an occupied nest box. Very little is wasted in nature and this is probably a strategy that limits the risk of parasitic infestation. Birds will also remove the encapsulated fecal sacs from their young and I once had a Wren in my garden that lined up the removed fecal sacs along a branch of a neighbouring tree.
Winter has given way to Spring with the immediate end of fine weather. The cold snap this winter was marked by an influx of the previously absent winter Redwings and Fieldfares which were seen gorging themselves on the still copious berry crop and then they promptly disappeared with the fine weather.
I was glad to read that Brian Green had seen a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker which is rare and on the endangered list. This Woodpecker is not very easy to see as it is smaller than a Starling, but otherwise distinguishable by a red cap to its head and barred wings instead of the larger white wing patch on his Greater Spotted cousin. Hence its other name Barred Woodpecker. As we were going to press, Stella Benwell reported sighting a Ring Ousel in a garden in Hawarden Grove, presumably brought down from its migration by April’s bad weather. It can be distinguished from the Blackbird by the white crescent on its chest.
The summer migrants will be in by the time this article is read. A Blackcap was starting to sing in my garden at the beginning of March so that I could not be certain whether this was a winter migrant from East Europe or a very early summer migrant from Spain or Africa; such is the vagary of our weather.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)