Long-legged Tchaikovskys

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insufferable delicacy

infused into the bend

of knee, turn of head:

a water-borne ballet,

beat kept by still water,

reflecting this moment

then, now, forevermore.

This will – finally – be the last of the birds from my trip to the Llobregat Delta in Spain, almost eight months on. (What can I say. I procrastinate.) And it’s the bird I treasured most from my trip there – one that, to me, embodies everything there is to love about shorebirds: the black-winged stilt. When I saw it, just below the hide, I may have squealed a little.

Part of it is the number of times the name has casually been dropped when reading birding blogs, and till Llobregat, I have had to contend with the knowledge that I have never seen it; another part of it is – well, it. Come on. There is nothing to hate about such a paragon of utter loveliness. Observe its thin, pencil-like beak, beautiful in its ergonomicity; the perfect roundness of its head; the ridiculously and delightfully disproportionate legs that offer its name to us very easily. (Unlike *cough cough* some birds.)

Sometimes I wonder how such birds can exist without the world imploding twice-over.

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Creeping Suspicions

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We’re out of the Llobregat and back up to the Pyrenees to return to a bird which had my heart jumping to my throat. Presenting: the Eurasian Treecreeper.

Continue reading “Creeping Suspicions”

Mallard over Metropolis

MallardandSky_ProcessedLogoToday in quirky bird names, we bring you a Mallard from, you guessed it, Spain. Apparently the name is derived from Old French – from mallart, or wild drake – and also from masle, meaning male.

As a female, I am slightly offended by this gendering what is, at the end of the day, a duck. A duck with a lovely green head that is found across most of the world in a distinct two sexes, but neverthless, a duck, which should, by all accounts, defy gendering.

But ah well. That’s taxonomists for you.

Google tells me it is the commonest duck of the northern hemisphere, to which I have to say: thank you very much, I could have figured that out myself. (I mean, aside from the fact “northern hemisphere” should include Singapore. As restaurant names constantly remind us, we are 1º North!) I’ve seen it across what little of Europe I’ve been too, and also in Washington, D.C. – so it is a bit of a high flyer. (Get it. GET IT.)

But it’s not all jokes and names with this duck. Due to its extreme popularity as an adornment for man-made waterbodies and its extreme success at doin’ it with practically every other related duck in sight, interbreeding is a major problem whenever this duck moves in. Because it diverged relatively recently from the Tree of Life, its hybrid offspring are often fertile as well. This is usually not a good thing for preserving the genetic pool of another species.

So a mallard over a metropolis is, at the end of the day, a common sight. Let’s just hope their increase in numbers doesn’t lead to Mallards over Metropolises And No Other Duck.

The Blossoming

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I have some very, very exciting news to share, but that will have to wait till Tuesday, unfortunately.

Till then, have some details of what I am tentatively labelling apple blossoms, spotted at the ever-fruitful (I AM FUNNY AND NO ONE CAN TELL ME OTHERWISE) Llobregat Delta.

Duck Days

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My adventures at the Llobregat Delta continue. One of the things that fascinated me about the area was the sheer density of waterfowl – specifically, ducks and geese. Of course, I’ve been witness to the hundreds of shorebirds at a time at Sungei Buloh, and long-legged waders are hardly new to me – but ducks? Not so much. In fact, I do believe I haven’t seen a single wild duck in Singapore. (When you consider the fact only one duck species is resident, and that too is extremely rare, this feat becomes decidedly less reputation-ruining.)

This was one of the four or five species we saw that day. I haven’t got the faintest clue what it is, or even where to start in identification – and to be honest, that’s the most exciting part.

Swamphen Days

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Barcelona’s Llobregat Delta proved to be a fruitful trip for me. However, birds I could identify were in a minority – which, thankfully, included this Purple Swamphen. I can now profess myself to be intimately familiar with this species, after having documented them in the Sandpit Swamphens, based on observations of them in Bangalore this summer.

Looking back on this European individual with a summer’s worth of observations under my belt, these pictures become doubly fascinating. Not only was I afforded a very good glimpse of its exceptionally long toes – which aid in gripping hard-to-balance reeds – but also its foraging behavior, as it brings a nice tender shoot to its mouth. Both of these are characteristics I didn’t see in India, perhaps due to the different habitat – that was deep water with a mat of water plants over it, whereas Llobregat is shallow water.

I think it’s safe to say even after hours and hours of observation, I’ve only scratched the surface of these undoubtedly fascinating birds.

A Tit-Blue Sky

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A Blue Tit peeks out from behind blossoms, a brilliant blue sky behind. Honestly – who could resist the chubby little face?