Thursday, 24 June 2021

Reading RSPB Group

KATRINA VAN GROUW entertained members with a talk somewhat different from those that they normally experience.

Her venture had started when, walking along the beach one day, she stumbled across a recently dead female mallard.

She took this home and over a period of many months stripped back the bird to reveal its skeleton, which she sketched.

Affectionately called Amy, this bird became the inspiration for a book and over the next 25 years other species were collected, stripped back and sketched.

Beetles were introduced to help with the process and Katrina’s husband boiled many a carcass to clean the bones.

The result was a fascinating chronicle of the anatomy of birds in an interesting book entitled The Unfeathered Bird.

It was certainly a talk with a difference.

A few days later the group was scheduled to visit Cowleaze Wood, near Christmas Common. However, this was postponed due to the mid-March snow.

Instead, a few members visited Hosehill Lake, near Theale.

In mid-March the early season summer migrants should be arriving but the lingering cold weather appeared to have delayed their arrival and not even a chiffchaff was heard. The bonus of the cold weather is that those elegant winter thrushes — the redwing and fieldfare — were still evident in some very good numbers, small flocks flying over almost continuously in search of the last remaining berries.

Another of the turdidae family, the mistle thrush, sang his haunting cry from a high perch.

It also has a country name of stormcock and the song often appears to herald forthcoming bad weather — it generally starts to breed in February so we are left to wonder if the eggs and young have survived the frosty nights.

On the lake several mallards were feeding but there were no chicks yet, probably another sign that winter had still refused to give way to spring.

A party of 20 or so widgeon dropped into the lake. They will soon be heading north to their summer breeding grounds.

Birdwatchers, too, were growing cold and, as it was now beyond noon, the warmth of the pub beckoned.

The next meeting of the group will take place at Pangbourne village hall at Tuesday, April 10 at 8pm when Rick and Elis Simpson will present an illustrated talk entitled “Wader Quest”, an introduction to the work of this conservation organisation. Visitors are always welcome.

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