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Yellowhammer, Black Anvil

Monday, 28th April 2003, West Yorkshire

rowan trunkA rowan, also known as mountain ash, makes the perfect 'amenity tree', to use an awful phrase. When we planted a whip of a sapling in the front garden about 8 years ago we double-checked the sight-lines from the house and now it precisely masks the lamppost. With spring blossom for the bees, autumn leaf colour and sprays of red berries for the blackbirds and thrushes it packs a lot of interest into a small space. Eventually it will outgrow our small front garden but its leaves provide dappled shade so, as it grows, it doesn't dominate the space like a dense, dark conifer.

This rowan is just coming into blossom in the small grassy area around Flanshaw library in Wakefield but I found the structure of the trunk more tempting to draw than the ferny mass of foliage in the half hour I had available, sitting comfortably at the library's picture window as it rained outside.

Yellowhammer versus VW Golf

yellowhammerWe see some curious behaviour in the garden of a house near the river in Stanley near Wakefield. A male yellowhammer is perching on the boot of a black Volkswagen Golf. It perches on the bumper then flutters up the boot and perches on the rear windscreen wiper. It keeps in beak-to-beak contact with its reflection. It's not making any calls that I notice. We watch for several minutes. Returning that way twenty minutes later the yellowhammer is still there, still locked in its repetitive cycle of fluttering at its reflection.

yellowhammerTo judge by the half dozen or so bird droppings on the bumper it has evidently been locked into the this behavioural loop for some time. It does flutter down to the grass occasionally, so perhaps it won't starve to death as it does this. Someone suggests chasing it off, but I have a feeling that it would soon come back.

A female, a duller bird, lacking the bright yellow plumage, comes and hops around you the car. Are we imagining it or can we detect some exasperation with her mate's obsession in her down to earth pecking at the ground? next page

Richard Bell