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The Early Morning Shift

2nd of July 2007

Great British weather,where would we be without it ?What would we have to talk about? April was more like June and I thought it would never rain and that the grass would never grow. Then May came along and it did not know when to stop raining and the grass grew like mad, until it was taller than the lambs and they and me were constantly soaked. What will June bring, never mind July?
The blackbirds and thrushes had a hard time of it in April. The ground was so dry that the worms had gone deeper, even if they had been able to get their beaks into the hard ground. The rain came in the nick of time, just as they had young chicks to feed and it has been easy pickings on our grassy ride and lawn ever since. I am always surprised at how many blackbirds the garden holds. If I look out of the windows at first light, about 4.30am just now, the lawn at the front seems to be a blackbird display area. Half a dozen males will be chasing each other or trying to make themselves look bigger by fluffing out their feathers. Sometimes if a fight gets a bit serious the “Mrs” will join in as well. At this time of year maintaining a territory and raising a family is the main concern.
I was watching a pair hunting for worms on the grassy ride whilst I was eating my breakfast a few days ago. Large fat worms were pulled from the ground, chopped up and carried away. When the male came back he was only a few feet from the window and I noticed that the long flight feathers on his wings were brown and not jet black as they usually are. Out came the bird books, and finally one described how a “first year male”, one that hatched last year and is in its first breeding season, retains the brown flight feathers from its juvenile plumage. It wonÕt lose them until the autumn. I had never heard of this before. My young man seemed to be making a good job of fatherhood for a beginner!
The females are brown with a slightly speckled breast, and are some times confused with song thrushes. Thrushes have a white background to the speckles while the blackbirds is light brown. When the young leave the nest they look like females only more spotted and they still have a noticeable gape, so the parents know where to put the food!
Although, being tone deaf I am not much good at recognising bird song, I do love to hear the blackbirds sing. Waking at 4.30am isnt all bad!
Wendy Bathurst

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