© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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Jewels in the woodland crown

The distinctive call of the Ring-necked Parakeets is normally to be heard loud and clear at some point during any walk in Highbury Park, but for the last handful of days it has been conspicuous by its absence. I suspect that they are now nesting. I have pictured them breeding, and just a few days ago (see the blog post from April 20, Love Is In The Air) I shared with you a photograph of them displaying courtship feeding, so this seems like a fair conclusion.

Courtship feeding actually happens not to woo the female. The male offers food to his mate after breeding, generally when she is laying and incubating – and also during egg formation, which I believe was what I caught on camera the other day.

Although there was no sight of the parakeets yesterday, I did spot something completely different from that brightly-plumed bird: a Blackcap. It flew across onto a branch near me, paused for a couple of heartbeats, then flew on. But it was long enough for me to have a magical moment drinking in the sight of its shades of grey body and the black ‘cap’ on top of its head that gives it its name (the one I saw was male, they have the black caps. Females have light brown caps).

This summer-visitor warbler is one of the birds that will stop coming to Highbury if the illegal clearing of undergrowth continues. It loves shady woodland, and builds its nest in low shrubs and ground cover, typically laying between three and six eggs. It would be such a shame if the park were to lose the Blackcap, and its clear, chattering song, because of the actions of one thoughtless but determined person.

But enough of such depressing thoughts. Yesterday I was another mission: to visit Holders Lane Wood. The weather was cold in the morning, but I soon got warmed up walking. When the sun came out it was glorious. Holders Lane Wood is a really beautiful place to visit; it has brambles and untended sections and also wide open places. And the range of birds singing lifted my heart, it sounded glorious. Above me the tree canopy is starting to really fill out, but it is not yet thick enough to block out the sunlight – which has triggered one of springs most magnificent displays: the bluebells.

I really would recommend people find a bluebell wood near them. Wander down pathways off the beaten track, and enjoy the woodland carpet showing off the jewels of its crown. The display is brief, disappearing as soon as leaf cover in the canopy blocks out the light, but somehow it is all the more wonderful for its short visit. ‘Always leave people wanting more’ seems to be the bluebell’s motto.

The only problem for me was that the sun had gone in and the clouds were darkening. I took some photographs but I knew they wouldn’t do justice to the bluebells. Still, I was intent on getting some decent shots. Suddenly something little hit me on the head, then something else and… Ow, it was hailing! So I put my hood up and hurried on, homeward bound. Luckily I was already through to the other side of the wood so came out. When it was well in the distance…the sun came out. I sighed in frustration.

Still, it meant I have an excuse to return soon, when the sun is shining, to take more photographs. That thought made me smile.

#ringneckedparakeet #parakeets #highburypark #blackcap #HoldersLaneWoods #bluebells