Monday, 21 May 2012

Birdwatching among the scultures

Last Thursday I took the day off work to go out to the Henry Moore Foundation in rural Hertfordshire with relatives who were over from Canada. It’s worth a visit even if, like me, you think art might not be your thing – because the sculptures that are on display in the grounds of the farmhouse where the Moores moved to during the war are truly breathtaking.

Naturally, I took my binoculars to see what I could see. There were Robins in the hedgerows, a fleetingly-glimpsed House Sparrow, and plenty of Rooks in the field with the sheep. There’s a bird table in the garden by the visitors’ centre where I saw a pair of Great Tits.

Sighting of the day, though, was a Treecreeper making its way up a tree next to one of the barns that Moore converted into a studio. I’m not sure when I last saw one of those – I’ve checked my notes and I am pretty sure they’ve eluded me in Coldfall Wood. Now that was worth taking the binoculars for.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Watch out, there's a Jay about

If you’ve heard a harsh screech on the streets of East Finchley recently, you may have been listening to a Jay. According to several correspondents, there are a lot of them about.

Smaller than a woodpigeon, the Jay has a pinkish-fawn body, a distinctive black ‘moustache’, a black tail and white and blue patches on its wings. Despite being the most colourful members of the crow family, Jays are more often heard than seen as they are secretive birds. However, there have been sightings on streets and in gardens recently as nesting pairs have been busy gathering materials.

Although they are woodland birds (Coldfall Wood is an excellent place to see them), numbers in the suburbs have risen in recent years – and as that photo on the back page of the February edition of The Archer showed, East Finchley is nothing if not tree-lined!

Jays are best known for eating acorns, which they store in the autumn so they can eat them all year round. However, they also eat insects, beetles and even the eggs and nestlings of smaller birds – something for which they are considerably less notorious than their cousins the Magpies. As such, they may well have a negative impact on smaller birds as they will be looking for more food with which to feed their young at this time of year – although I have been told by a fellow-resident who’s had some in her garden that Jays themselves can be victims to persistent Carrion Crows in this regard.