• Barbara Copperthwaite

A sense of belonging

Female blackcap, Barbara Copperthwaite, Go Be Wild

Over the past few days the butterflies have been out in abundance, making the most of the glorious weekend we enjoyed. Amongst the Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells, Large Whites, etc, I have seen several Red Admirals. Big, flashy and unmissable, thanks to their black wings set off with eye-catching reddish-orange and white pattern, Red Admirals are summer migrants that travel here largely from Africa. I used to see lots, but since moving to Birmingham, I don’t see many, sadly. I’m not sure if that is because of a decrease in numbers, or that they simply aren’t abundant in this area for some reason.

Having watched several flit by (in fact, one was waiting for me outside on my windowsill the moment I stepped through my front door to walk Scamp) I glanced at the elderberry bush I was passing. I knew that the chances were something interesting would be hiding within, either taking shelter, or feasting on the berries. Sure enough, after several moments of peering, I saw a tiny movement and realised a female Blackcap was enjoying the glut of berries. She stayed there for several minutes, almost always hidden away so that I could only see the tiniest glimpse of a tail, or wing, or beak. The glitter of a keen black eye. Then, briefly, she appeared from behind a mainly green bunch of berries, and I managed to get a shot of her.

The Moorhens on Henbury Pond caught my attention next. The young Moorhen was right near the bank, feeding gently, and I couldn’t help noticing that it looks incredibly healthy, and is now as large as its parents. How much longer now before it sheds its juvenile feathers and gains its striking adult black plumage, and the distinctive red shield above its beak, I wonder.

It has been really lovely watching this Moorhen family successfully raise their single chick this year. The breeding pair tried and tried, building nests in different places around the pond, sitting on eggs…only for them to fail for some reason (mainly, I suspect, predation from rats). But it was third time lucky for them, and when I saw that tiny chick for the first time I could not help feeling both elated for them but also fearful in case something once again went wrong. I know seasoned nature-watchers advise strongly against anthropomorphising, but sometimes I simply can’t help relating to the things I see a little, investing emotionally in them a bit. It was saddening to see this Moorhen family trying and failing to raise young - and incredibly heartening that they have succeeded. And I wonder…is it really so terrible for people to care? To feel invested and involved? It gives me a sense of belonging to nature; that it is a community and that I am part of that community, not something set apart from it, simply observing. Ultimately, one of the reasons I do the blog is to help me, and maybe others, feel that connection. I even love the way the Moorhens now have a number of nests they have build which they move into through out the day, chasing the sunshine when it appears. They remind me of people moving their deckchairs around to make the most of the rays.

juvenile moorhen, Barbara Copperthwaite, Go Be Wild

#redadmiral #blackcap #moorhen #HighburyPark #kingsheath

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