Pecking Order

Wednesday 23rd August 2000, West Yorkshire

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young starling feeding on elder berries FIRST ONE arrives, then two, soon fourteen Starlings crowd onto the bird table. Within minutes the pile of breadcrumbs is gone. There's a certain amount of bluff to establish pecking order, even in this free-for-all. There are a few dark adults but these are mainly juveniles in their half-and-half plumage; pale brown jacket and star-spangled waistcoat.

I get a brief respite from the continuing errands of getting the latest book into print and decide that, instead of sitting at my computer working on the next one, I'll have a few hours of pure indulgence, sketching in the garden.

seedpods of broomdodder?As I sketch the Broom, to illustrate the observation about its 'exploding' pods for Sunday's diary, I notice that one of the fresh green branches has fine white threads hanging from it. At the end of each thread hangs a tiny capsule. It appears to be a fungus, which has already infected some of the lower branches of the plant, which look sooty and are scattered with little white flecks like cigarette ash. I guessed at first that it was dodder, but that is a parasitic flowering plant and this looks much more like a fungus.

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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