If you see a tail-less robin or a scraggy blackbird, it is in moult and cannot
If you see a tail-less robin or a scraggy blackbird, it is in moult and cannot fly well until the new feathers have grown.
The mallard drakes are losing their shiny green heads and are in eclipse, less conspicuous to be safer, as they are flightless now for four to seven weeks.
The smaller tufted ducks are also all brown, the drakes have lost their white flank panels and are difficult to differentiate from the females.
On the moat at Phyllis Court Club there is a delighful domestic scene as both coot and tufted duck pairs dodge the boats to feed their tiny chicks, unlike the mallards where the female does all the duckling-care and the drakes go in search of other partners.
The black-headed gulls over the river have gradually increased in number over the last half-century, due to the availability of food on landfill sites and gravel pits for roosting.
They now nest at Sonning and Dorchester, follow the plough and know when lunchtime is over at school, descending on playgrounds to scavenge the leftovers.
At Nuffield Place, where a tail-less robin visited us at tea, the National Trust has created a flower and grass meadow where you can admire the marbled white and meadow brown butterflies. Earlier in the year holly blues swarmed here. The brilliant yellow petals have fallen from the oilseed rape; those seeds are ripening in the spiky pods and will be harvested for cooking oil and margarine.
The pale blue fields in Shiplake are linseed of the flax family: the seeds are rich in omega 3 and are fed to dairy cattle to produce omega 3 rich milk and to poultry to ease our aching joints.
The pale pink fields are morphine poppies, grown under licence from the Home Office, a dual purpose crop: the sap gives medicinal morphine and the seeds decorate our rolls. And the gorgeous fields of red poppies, off Highlands Lane, appear to be just for fun!