Fledge InfoEggs Countdown

Number 1: The Avocet

Did you know that there are four species of avocet? They are the American, Andean, red-necked and pied. It is the pied avocet with its long legs for wading and fine upward curved bill which is the symbol of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and a fitting bird to finish this countdown to publication.  #Fledge 🙂 x

Number 2: The Bittern

Did you know that this elusive and well camouflaged bird can be found around wetland reedbeds? There were only eleven males left in 1997, but because of the hard work of conservationists in RSPB reserves, that number is now around 200.

Number 3: The Harrier

Did you know that in some parts of Europe people believed that seeing a harrier perched on a house was a sign that three people would die? In terms of Fledge Countdown Info Eggs, it just means IT IS THREE DAYS TO PUBLICATION !!!

Number 4: The Shag

Did you know that there are two members of the cormorant family in the British Isles? In Old Norse, the shag is translated as ‘scart’ which is an approximation of the sound it makes and is not an indication about how you connect it to the back of your telly.

Number 5: The Snipe

Did you know that in a mating display, snipe produce a ‘drumming’ sound during a ‘winnowing flight’ which comes not from their vocal chords but from their rear ends? To be clear, this is caused by tail feather vibrations and is not the result of a high fibre diet.

Number 6: The Albatross

Did you know that one of my favourite activities at Leighton Moss Nature Reserve when taking a class of kids, is to see their amazement at the size of the albatross wing span (typically ranging from 2.5 to 3.5 metres)?

Number 7: The Osprey

Did you know that among a number of weird medieval beliefs about the osprey was that it had one webbed foot and one taloned foot? Apparently fish became so mesmerised by them, they’d turn belly-up in surrender.

Number 8: The Dunnock

Did you know that dunnocks nest in dense vegetation, building nests out of twigs and moss? They are favoured hosts for the cuckoo, which often lays its eggs in the smaller bird’s nest. The cuckoo chick will push any dunnock eggs out of the nest, in order to receive the full attention of its surrogate parents.

Number 9: The Nightingale

Did you know the nightingale is a bird that through its song has inspired the creative talents of poets and musicians? Keats called them an ‘immortal bird’ although they were once thought to impale themselves on thorns while singing, suffering for their art, as it were.

Number 10: The Red Kite

Did you know that the word kite is from the Old English cyta and in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale: ‘Ther cam a kyte, whil þt they were so wrothe That bar awey the boon bitwix hem bothe.’ Fuk noes wat that meins …

Number 11: The Thrush

Did you know the thrush has been in decline over the last 50 years, with something of a recent moderate recovery, but numbers are still low relative to historic records and so it is currently listed as in peril? Such a massive shame to lose this lovely bird.

Number 12: The Bullfinch

Did you know that serial wife murderer and all round pillock Henry VIII had it in for bullfinches as well? Their ‘criminal attacks’ on fruit trees resulted in an Act of Parliament declaring that one penny would be paid for every bird killed. #Warthog

Number 13: The Swallow

Did you know that in order for a five ounce swallow to carry a one pound coconut gripped by the husk, it must maintain its air-speed velocity by beating its wings 43 times every second? Hard work … even for African swallows.

Number 14: The Skylark

Did you know that The Lark Ascending is a poem by George Meredith? A paean to the song and flight of the skylark written in 1881, the poem inspired Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose a musical work of the same name, which is now more widely known than the poem.

Number 15: The Kestrel

Did you know that in the medieval Boke of Seynt Albans, kestrels or windhovers were considered suitable birds for poor men, hence the title of Barry Hines’ excellent story ‘A Kestrel For A Knave’, adapted into the film ‘Kes’ by Ken Loach; brilliant film, wonderful hawk.

Number 16: The Coot

Did you know that coots are quite an aggressive bird whose parenting skills leave a lot to be desired? If there is pressure on food availability, coots weed out the weakest, attacking or ‘tousling’ their young, eventually raising only one or two out of around nine hatchlings.

Number 17: The Plover

Did you know that the plover engages in false brooding, which is a type of distraction display where the bird pretends to change position, sitting on imaginary eggs in order to distract any naughty predators? Clever little beggar, the plover …

Number 18: The Chaffinch

Did you know that if the young chaffinch is not exposed to the adult male’s song during a certain critical period after hatching, it will never properly learn it? Males have two or three different songs, and I’m told they sing with regional dialects.

Number 19: The Dove

Did you know that poetry can be found on ancient Egyptian papyrus in which a conversation is had with a dove? The dove speaks, saying “the land has been made bright, what is your path?”

Number 20: The Goldcrest

Did you know that goldcrests are the smallest birds found in the UK? With thin beaks, they are ideally suited for picking insects out from between pine needles. In our garden, the Christmas tree planted fifteen years ago has become goldcrest central.

Number 21: The Wood Pigeon

Did you know that wood pigeons feed their young with crop or pigeon milk which is an extremely rich yellow cottage cheese-like fluid produced in the adult birds’ crops during the breeding season? It is very high in protein and fat, and contains anti-oxidants and has immune-enhancing factors.

Number 22: The Owl

Did you know that owls have asymmetrical ears, located at different heights on their heads, just like me and my Grandad? However, that’s where the similarity between strigiformes and certain members of the Humble family ends … #TwitTwooooooo

Number 23: The Kingfisher

Did you know that Kingfishers eat minnows and sticklebacks, but they also take aquatic insects, freshwater shrimps and tadpoles to top up their diet? Each bird must eat at least its own bodyweight of fish each day to survive and thrive.

Number 24: The Gull

Did you know I was once bullied by a gull that was after my chips in Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens? In years gone by they were known as mews and are quite long-lived birds, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded for the herring gull.

Number 25: The Bluetit

Did you know that my abiding memory of this bird is how they used to steal the cream off the top if the milk by pecking and peeling a hole in the foil of the glass bottles left by the milkman in the morning? Don’t see that so much these days …

Number 26: The Magpie

Did you know that the name derives from the French who know them as Margot-Pie in a similar way that we use Jerry Redbreast, Tom Tit and Ba Ba Ba Ba Barbara Wren?

Number 27: The Dipper

Did you know that according to Moss & Westwood’s Tweet of the Day, the dipper as it bobs up and down, singing lustily by fast flowing streams is like a wren on steroids? Seemingly never still, this busy bobber is very successful up here in the north-west and is regularly spotted along well oxygenated rivers.

Number 28: The Wren

Did you know that the wren is so wonderful they named it twice? Troglodytes troglodytes, or cave dweller is very successful in the British Isles and is one of the most common, widely distributed and noisy little birds you’ll come across.

Number 29: The Heron

Did you know it bothers me to see a heron in a tree; to watch it balance on a stick at heights that make me feel quite sick. They have those legs that don’t look strong; that seem too thin and over-long. And if a breeze shook up that tree,a sticky end I could foresee. Now if I was that gangly bird, with legs that look to me absurd, I wouldn’t stand and risk my neck, so very high above the deck. I think the cautious route I’d take, reduce the risk, make no mistake. Yes, I’d adopt a safe technique; I’d sit and cling on with my beak.

Number 30: The Blackbird

Did you know that there have been two stand out creative pieces about this lovely bird: a song written by Paul McCartney entitled ‘Blackbird’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxI8Zw-Ttls and a poem called ‘The Safety Of Clouds’ in a collection called Fledge by Jonathan Humble https://northernjim.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/the-safety-of-clouds/ : ) xxx

Number 31: The Starling

Did you know that the indigenous starling, which is surprisingly low in number, is augmented by German and Russian émigrés that bulk up numbers in those marvellous murmurations we see at dusk. British, German and Russians working together to produce something quite beautiful … there’s a thought.

Number 32: The Oystercatcher

Did you know that this bird was misnamed in the eighteenth century (being mistaken for a similar American species)? It really ought to be known as the musselcracker as it doesn’t actually catch oysters but cracks mussels.

Number 33: The Sparrowhawk

Did you know that falconers refer to male sparrowhawks as ‘muskets’ and that in medieval times they were considered to be the hunting bird for a priest? Shakespeare used ‘eyas-musket’ as a term for a young lad or sparrowhawk.

Number 34: The Curlew

Did you know that St Bueno, a seventh century sky pilot, was helped by a curlew when he was experiencing difficulties off the coast of Wales and so he promised to pray for the bird’s protection? Well I reckon old Bueno must have fallen asleep or got distracted recently and he needs to get his bloody finger out promptly.

Number 35: The Swift

Did you know that in the nest, young swifts exercise by doing push ups on their wing tips and if food becomes short for any reason, they are able to reduce their metabolic rate and survive off body fat in state of torpor? How clever 🙂

Number 36: The Oooo Aaaah Bird

Did you know that this shy and rarely seen little native bird gained its interesting and unique name due to the fact that it is the only species in the UK that lays square eggs? Amazing fact.

Number 37: The Buzzard

Did you know that this most beautiful raptor, this talented and graceful master of the thermals (which has like Lazarus come back from the dead since DDT was done away with by the agriculture industry), is somewhat disrespectfully known as the “tourist eagle” in Scotland because of its alleged misidentification by Sassenach grockles? How rude!

Number 38: The Rook

Did you know that before we all became massively intelligent, in days of yore, folk believed rooks gathering and squabbling in the canopies of trees were debating matters of the day, hence the collective noun a parliament of rooks?

Number 39: The House Sparrow 

Did you know that the venerable Bede once compared life to the flight of a sparrow through a banqueting hall on a winter’s day? Liked a simile did old Bedey …

Number 40: The Robin

Did you know that in Victorian times, robins were called little postmen because of the red coats postmen wore in the nineteenth century? Yes, of course you did …