birds as clever as mammals

The assumption that birds have more primitive cognitive abilities than mammals is a mistake, according to the Avian Brain Nomenclature Consortium.


RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2005

I just took part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2005.

If you’re living in Britain, there’s still time to take part – you can do it today or tomorrow. My list (numbers are maximum seen at once):

great tit – 4
blue tit – 9
coal tit – 1

greenfinch – 2
chaffinch – 2

nuthatch – 1
robin – 2
starling – 3
goldcrest – 1
dunnock – 1
blackbird – 2

feral pigeon – 6
woodpigeon – 1

green woodpecker – 1
great spotted woodpecker – 1

carrion crow – 2
magpie – 3

black-headed gull – 12

Which is pretty mediocre, to be honest. Some birds I regularly see in the garden that didn’t turn up in my hour slot: jay, goldfinch, heron, long-tailed tit, collared dove, ring-necked parakeet. Jay was probably the biggest gap in the list.

Culture Nature

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fevourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.