Friday, 24 September 2021

Just like being at home

HENLEY’S twin town of Leichlingen lies on the same latitude as Henley, so it has the same bird life.

They, too, are startled by the calls of ringneck parakeets, which have colonised the Rhein as they have the River Thames.

I also saw on the central stanchion of Hohenzollern Bridge, leading towards Cologne Cathedral, a black, shiny cormorant in a similar pose to those on Rod Eyot.

It was vibrating the bare pouch below its yellow beak, a cooling mechanism as birds do not have sweat glands and usually evaporate water from the respiratory tract.

This increases the evaporation rate by panting or, in non-passerines like the cormorant, by gular flutter, the rapid oscillation of the thin floor of the mouth and upper throat.

Cormorants do not preen their feathers from an oil gland like other diving birds but spread their wings to dry after fishing, as we see in the high poplars towards Fawley Court.

Above the hills of the Bergisch Land, so like the Chilterns with their beech woods, the swallows are touring high but we hear their constant chatter, so different from the fierce, silent concentration earlier in the year when they were desperate to gather enough insects for their nestlings.

Then, alas, we find them on the wires, plotting their imminent return to Africa, to the same spots they left in spring, just as they return to the same nest sites each year.

The difference is that in Germany we can sit out on the terrace in the warmth of the evening until the light fades and the twittering is replaced by the silent flight of bats cruising under the tree canopy.

There are both pipistrelle and Daubentons, I think, for there are two different sizes.

They roost in the belfry of the village church under the onion-shaped dome, so constructed to shed the winter snow, or in the barns and apple sheds of the mixed farms.

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