Armchair twitching

You may have noticed that there are few things I like better than getting out into the countryside and taking photographs of the wildlife. But just occasionally the wildlife comes to me and I don’t have to even leave the armchair. Such was my good fortune during a recent visit to my parents.

The garden there is fairly green and the birds know there is always a square meal for them because my Dad has been feeding them regularly for over 40 years. So on this a particular afternoon the feeders were replenished and the birds visited in droves.

Great tit pair (Parus major, Dansk: musvit) crunching peanuts in the holly bush

Because everything was late in the spring this year due to the cold weather the birds were paired off but were not all sitting on eggs yet and various species were behaving as though they were starting to think about mating but hadn’t yet got round to it.

Collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto, Dansk: tyrkerdue) perched in the laburnum tree waiting for his mate

It was Easter Sunday, March 31st, the leaves of the laburnum tree were just starting to shoot and the thoughts of the collared doves were turning to lurv:

The good lady duly arrived and bonds were reaffirmed

The Danish name for the collared dove ‘tyrkerdue‘ translates to ”Turkish dove‘ in English because their home territory is in Turkey and the Middle East from where they spread to the UK, arriving in 1955. The gentle and peaceful  image traditionally associated with doves is belied by the reality, they are one of the most agreesive garden birds and I’ve watched them chase off all comers including much bigger birds than themselves such as wood pigeons. They’re feisty characters!


Ten days before this visit to my folks I’d seen siskin (Carduelis spinus, Dansk: grønsisken) in my garden near Cambridge and I talked about them in this post. So within the space of a couple of weeks I saw them in two gardens, having never seen that at all before. Another sign that times they are a-changing, climatically speaking. This one is sat just above a niger seed feeder which is what tempted it into the garden in the first place.

Feral pigeon

Much to the annoyance of my Dad a flock of 20-30 feral pigeons have taken up residence on an adjacent roof and as with other pigeons they have an insatiable appetite for free food. As they are mob-handed and not slow in coming forward they deter the smaller songbirds so I can fully understand the old boy’s ire, but on the other hand they are handsome birds and entertaining to watch as a flock in flight.

And then this little guy turned up:

I don’t know what happened to him but I’ve heard it said that robins (Erithacus rubecula, Dansk: rødhals) will fight each other to the death in competition for mates, and peck at each others heads to the point where they scalp each other. So I wonder if this little monster has been fighting and got a sub-lethal pecking that subsequently became infected. Whatever it was, it didn’t kill him and he was turning up in my folk’s garden for a couple of months in this state before he eventually disappeared.

11 responses to “Armchair twitching

  1. I know it has some damage, but the robin still have a nice and interesting expression.

  2. I was fascinated by what you said about the ring necked doves, as they are quite common here, though introduced… I’m feeding eleven of them, and love them for their wood pigeon like cooing which takes me back to an English summer,
    What has impressed me about them though, is how polite ad unpushy they are, so that the greedy minahs and irrepressible sparrows get to the corn before they do, and I worry that they don’t get enough !

    • Hello Valerie, interesting too that they’ve been imported to NZ. And that they’re intimidated by the other species, that’s definitely not the case here! I wonder why they have different behaviour, I can feel a bit of research coming on.

      Do you remember turtle doves from when you were in the UK? Their numbers have crashed here by over 90% in the last three decades and until a year ago I can’t remember ever having seen one. But last weekend I counted at least four on a walk near Cambridge. That was lovely, they’re beautiful birds and I got some pictures to post in the near future.

  3. Hi, Finn, what an amazing shot of the unusual and unfortunate robin! I find myself wondering first, if his new totally arresting countenance is likely to attract or repel potential female companions and, second, if they will grow back!

    • Hello Gary, isn’t he remarkable?

      I wondered similar things and I’d be surprised if his gothic/punk rock looks appealed to the lady robins! My Dad said he’d been coming to the garden in that state for a couple of months so the feathers hadn’t grown back in that time. The poor little guy will have a cold head in the winter if they don’t grow back.

  4. It’s a shame about those pigeons scaring smaller birds! Maybe your dad should try using tube feeders without perches to deter them?

    • Hello Tom, I reckon the small birds still manage to get a good feed, they just have a bit less time to do it. There are hanging tube feeders too but my Dad puts out feed for the ground feeders and the bigger birds such as the corvids, which the pigeons get access to.

  5. Vicki (from Victoria A Photography)

    Interesting to see species around the world. Your Collared Dove looks a bit like our Spotted Turtle Dove. And we have a Pigeon similar to your Feral Pigeon.

    • Hello Vicki, I reckon feral pigeons must be global, every country I’ve ever been to seems to have plenty of them. Theirs appears to be a highly successful survival strategy!

      Regarding species similarity, I wonder if European collared doves may have been imported and interbred with some of your similar locals?

  6. My mum would greatly empathise with your dad, she puts a lot of energy into chasing pigeons away from bird feeders. That little robin looks as if he’s attending a masquerade ball, I’ve never seen such a thing before. Although I know they can be pretty aggressive, I didn’t know they pecked each other’s feathers off.

    • Hello Lorna, I’d love to know what caused his mask, I’ve never seen it before and I don’t know if he would recover from it. But yes, they don’t stand for any nonsense when they’re competing for ladies and territory.

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