Sunday, July 26, 2009
I vaguely remember seeing a film in the early sixties directed by Alfred Hitchcock called, ‘The Birds’. It was a suspense film that had you on the edge of your seat ready to dive down into the dark recess, close to your feet. The plot of the film was based on an unnatural allegiance between species of birds who joined together to attack and kill residents of a small town in the area of San Francisco Bay. I can’t remember the characters of the film, but I do recall the fear of people who cowered in seats nearby. When Hitchcock presented an introduction to the film before the actual showing, the sound of his voice and his sinister appearance set a tone of apprehension. After the first attack by a bird, more attacks occurred and the whole situation escalated into an uncontrollable scenario of ferocious attacks. From the time of seeing the film I never looked at birds in the same placid way as before, and it has taken me over 40 years to overcome this irrational persuasion. Even now, I can shiver at the thought of being attacked by birds, and I remember visiting Samson, a small uninhabited island, when I was attacked by nesting Terns intent on protecting their young. I had to fight them off with ferns I grabbed from nearby. Each time they dived for my head I had to duck and swing the ferns to fend them off. I was not sure if they would dig their beaks into my skull, but I couldn’t take that chance their aggression was only to frighten or intimidate. What has caused me to raise this subject of birds? Well, there’s been a noticeable increase in the numbers of certain birds where I live, and I put that down to the mild winters and balmy summers of recent years which have helped them breed, often with more than one clutch of young. Birds have always interested me, and of late I have been intrigued with their antics. Collared Doves have a particular repetitive flight during their mating season that is characterised by flying upwards to a point where they appear to stall before gliding down. More often than not two birds keep company, a male and a female, but at certain times they gather in flocks. Today I observed a pair attacking a Magpie, and their aggressive action reminded me of the Hitchcock thriller - Hence this contribution to my Blog. I actually like Collared Doves because they are cuddly, the sort of bird you want to hold and to stroke. They have tiny, smooth feathers that merge near the nape of the neck where there is a distinctive black half-collar marking. I’m attracted to their subtle buff, grey colouring and their white tipped tail feathers. If you can get close enough you can see their beautiful eyes with iris rings of reddish brown. Collared Doves migrated to the UK from the European mainland in the mid-fifties and have increased their numbers ever since. Wherever there are cereal crops and seed-bearing plants, caterpillars and aphids, there you will find them. They also enjoy feeding from bird tables and bird feeders. They can be identified by their persistent, repetitive call of ‘coocoo, coo’. Oh, and watch out for their droppings, a whole collage of them are by my doorstep, below the TV aerial they have adopted as their perch!