Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Small and beautiful

We got a surprise on our door step a few mornings back: no, not some unfortunate field mouse, laid out and displayed for our approval by the hunting cats: it was a Goldcrest, a tiny ball of feathers that had stunned itself  by flying into the kitchen window, in all likelihood.

After recovering in the warmth of the kitchen, subjected to the obligatory i Phone pic, the bird recovered sufficiently to be put back out in a safe place where it did in fact attract the attentions of a territorial Robin.

Goldcrest in care (c. M Wynne)

Goldcrests are our smallest bird: weighing in at just 6 grams: you would need 75 Goldcrests to make up the body mass of a single Woodpigeon, or 4 Goldcrests to make up an ounce ! 

Although they occur in gardens: they prefer the cover of trees and nest in tall conifers, strapping a soft nest over an outer branch, the nest is constructed with fairy like materials: spider's web, moss, feathers and lichen.

Goldcrest wrestles with a spider's web (c. John Fox)

Goldcrests have a fairly unique expression or style that seems to suit their diminutive stature:  This is very well described by Anthony Mc Geehan, writing in the just published, Birds through Irish Eyes ( Collins Press): 

'Tiny and compact with a near invisible short slender bill, the mite is endearing and often indifferent to human observation, especially when examining foliage and flitting from twig to twig....Both sexes have peppercorn eyes on a bland face and a drooping Fu Manchu wispy moustache.'

I see and hear them mostly in October and November: their thin 'si-si-si-si' calls usually lead to a view of one hovering under a sycamore leaf, picking up tiny insects: they need to feed constantly in winter, up to a fifth of that tiny body weight may be burnt overnight, to stave off the cold.

A Goldcrest in the hand  (c. R. Coombes)

No comments:

Post a Comment