Blogger: Erica Howe, Communications Officer
I have discovered some great wildlife facts this week about some of my favourite birds. I love all wildlife and the great outdoors, but one of my other favourite things is a good pub quiz! And what a way to marry the two together – facts about wildlife! My first of the week was this. The nuthatch is the only bird in the UK that can climb down a tree headfirst. This makes me smile every time I tell it. It conjures up memories of me as a child climbing trees, grazing my knees on the way up and getting so high that I would struggle to actually get down. Of course, if I’d had the acrobatic prowess of a nuthatch, I doubt my experiences would have been quite as dramatic, but my parents would have been impressed. Hanging upside down and perching on wafer thin twigs is quite a circus act, but for this agile creature, it comes as second nature. With such beautiful colours and graceful moves, this nuthatch is certainly a bird to fall in love with.
My second fact for the week is that a male nightingale will actually stop singing when its eggs have hatched so not to attract any unwanted attention to the nest. He will give only short calls to tell his mate that all is well or that danger might be approaching. This really caught my imagination. We’ve known for centuries that birds are instinctive, intelligent creatures, but this really demonstrates just how intuitive they can be...and romantic of course! You can always find a bit of romance amongst nature, whether it’s kingfishers feeding their date with tiny fish or a great crested grebe dazzling its partner with elaborate dancing. For what some might say, was a bland brown bird, the nightingale certainly defies all preconceptions with a song that has become an iconic part of our countryside. As a protective bird, the nightingale makes every effort to be a good parent and partner by looking out for both, keeping them under their watchful eye and making sure that no harm will ever come their way.
This is why I love wildlife so much. Just when I think I’m pretty clued up about it, along comes a fact or two that takes me pleasantly by surprise and gives me a whole new layer of appreciation for it. Although we seek comfort in the familiar turning of the seasons, the arrival of the swallows, the delicate bloom of the snowdrops, learning something out of the blue that amazes me is certainly refreshing. It makes me feel grateful that we share our planet with such incredible creatures that have hidden secrets and talents. And you never know, you might have a question about a nuthatch in your next pub quiz!
Article in Eastern Daily Press on Saturday 3 March 2012
Photo by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)