black-headed gulls

Solid State

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Monday 20th December 1999

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black-headed gulls

mistle thrush IT HAS BEEN the coldest December night for years. The plastic bowl we put out as a birdbath has been shattered as the water turned into a solid chunk of ice. I put fresh water in an inverted plastic dustbin lid, but it soon starts to ice over too.

In the park the lake, the ground, even water in the hollows amongst tree roots, is frozen solid.

The Wood Pigeon seems to have moved on, but the two Mistle Thrushes, the Robin, Wrens and Magpies are just where I saw them last week. They are evidently still finding food in leaf litter and amongst the branches, despite the degrees of frost.

blackbird Blackbirds are the most widespread bird in the park today. With the turf frozen solid, they are working through the leaf litter. The most popular feeding technique is like to taking a lucky dip in a bran tub;

  • the blackbird bends its head forward in a deep bow,
  • takes a leaf or two in its bill,
  • jumps smartly backwards,
  • hops forward again and cocks its head to closely examine the disturbed leaves for any potential food.
budgerigars Ten birds are working an area the size of a large back garden by the trees on the south-facing crest of Low Hill.

In the aviary by the frozen lake the Budgerigars are calling and trilling cheerfully, they don't seem at all put out by the freezing weather. Their bright colours bring an incongruous touch of the Australian outback to this dull winter park.

Ten of the Black-headed Gulls have arranged themselves along the cross-bar of a goal-posts, like a clip from the Hitchcock film. As well as making a good look-out post, the wooden rail may be a more comfortable surface to be in contact with, a better insulator, than the frozen ground.

black-headed gulls

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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