Friday, 17 January 2014

The Jackdaws have got used to people very quickly. They now wait in trees and fly down to be given biscuits.

They are very quick and can steal food from Carrion Crows, which are rather deliberate by the standards of birds. More remarkably, they can also beat Magpies, which are both observant and fast.

These crows in the Italian Garden were deliberately standing in the heavy windblown spray from the big marble fountain.

They did not seem to be getting wet; they must be pretty waterproof as land birds go. Later, when I threw a peanut to one near the Serpentine, and it bounced badly and went into the lake, the crow unhesitatingly plunged into the water to retrieve it.

Cormorants, on the other hand, do get wet, at least in their outer layer of feathers. Hence their tendency to stand on posts with wings outspread to dry -- though this pose must have other advantages, as I recently saw a Cormorant doing it in falling rain. Here one scratches its chin with a foot, looking even more dinosaur-like than usual.

There is still a large crowd of Shovellers on the Long Water between Peter Pan and the Vista, and they are still cruising about aimlessly without forming one of their large circles. This drake had gone to sleep and drifted away from the others. His eye is open because birds sleep on one side of their brain at a time.

After I took this picture the duck woke up, had a hasty preen, and went back to the flock.

The Tawny Owl was in his usual place, fast asleep until some Carrion Crows woke him up by making a racket under the tree. He gave them an irritated glance and went back to sleep.

Unlike most birds, owls appear to sleep on both sides at once, with both eyes shut. Perhaps that is a predator's privilege (or just bad observation on my part). Also, they seem to blink with their eyelids, like mammals. In all the many pictures I have taken of this owl with his eyes open, I have never caught him blinking with the thin nictitating membrane that birds have to maintain their eyes without losing a moment of vision by a full blink.

Wordsworth, however, thought that they blinked in the usual bird way, when he described the bedridden girl Anna passing the long day indoors:

          The presence even of a stuffed Owl for her
          Can cheat the time; sending her fancy out
          To ivied castles and to moonlight skies,
          Though he can neither stir a plume, nor shout;
          Nor veil, with restless film, his staring eyes.

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