Friday 6 May 2016

Tring Park Hoopoe & a finessing of feathers

He's emerged! Duke of Burgundy, Ivinghoe Beacon, 05/05/2016

This week I think I’ve been trying to cram the whole of April and early May into two sunny days. Yesterday was a good’un, with year firsts for local Swifts, Dingy Skipper and Duke of Burgundy, plus an out of the blue Hoopoe bouncing around in Tring Park. Judging by Twitter, it was truly magical, “now you see me, now you don’t!”. I got lucky, arriving just 10 minutes before it flew up the steep slope on the south side (the wooded bank, in the far distance, in the photo below), and appeared to keep going, heading SSE. That was the last I saw of it.

View over Tring Park plus digiscoped Hoopoe on 05/05/2016

Of course, firsts and the rare are the exception. Mostly, the highlights are extraordinary encounters with the ordinary: a bird that is settled, perhaps singing or preening, showing no fear or aversion and, without fanfare, you find that you are permitted to weave your senses into the experience of The Other. You forget yourself, and you and the bird unite. A delicate yet very real relationship comes to life: the observer and the observed. I had one such moment yesterday.

In the morning, I walked the length of the River Bulbourne where the Grey Wagtails are nesting. The female was safely on her eggs and I left her to it. However, a male flew in and perched up nearby. I’m guessing he’s the mate although there is this third adult around which I’ve not yet been able to sex. I’ve no idea what role this extra bird has. Is it perhaps a young adult from last year’s brood, helping with this year’s rearing? I know some species have that type of familial relationship but I’ve no idea if it happens in Wagtails?

Anyway, the smart male balanced and preened and swished his tail for nearly 2 minutes. I stood in the sunshine, watching/filming through the scope, savouring every second. The terms of these encounters are always dictated by the other. As soon as he was through finessing his feathers, the tether between us dropped and he was wild again. My breathing returned to normal, my consciousness expanded and each of us assumed our separated selves, mine the richer for our brief alliance...

[The digiscoped video is best viewed in 4K: press play then click on the cog, bottom right, and select 2160p4K quality]

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  1. Love the Duke photo and getting a Hoopoe no doubt made your day.

  2. Many thanks Marc. Yes, not a lot of Hoopoes in Herts!

  3. Excellent writing - as ever, and well done on connecting with a local Hoopoe!

    1. Thank you Martin. I did get very lucky with the Hoopoe - just rocked up at the right moment - no skill whatsoever involved, lol. I hope the season has started well for you down at Maple Lodge. Butterflies seem to be 2-3 weeks behind last year's dates but hopefully, with some settled, warm weather, they'll do ok. Still no Small Blues at the A41 site yet.


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