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Flutter! Flutter!

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Oh yes, everyone loves a bullfinch... everyone who has seen one, that is! Who could resist its rotund charm, velvety black cap, bright beady eye, flaming chest? And what is that colour? Not red exactly, nor pink but rose shading into orange perhaps - the Latin name pyrrhula pyrrhula derived from the Greek πυρρός meaning flame-coloured. And yet there are unbelievers...
For such a chunky little finch (hence the 'bull' tag), this magnificent bird is both quiet and secretive. Numbers have declined by a third in recent decades, so although there are about 200,000 breeding pairs in the UK it's still something of a rare event to see one. Adele has never seen one. She and I went up to Leighton Moss Nature Reserve last summer on the promise of spotting some bullfinches. Not one. They had been sighted almost every day for several weeks and we bumped into several people who swore they had seen them, but the little fellows stayed well hidden from our eyes for the duration of the day we were there. Adele doesn't believe they exist...

Flutter! Flutter!

WANTED - artist's impression

It's about a decade now since I last saw one myself and that was in the back garden when I lived just north of London. When it happens, it is quite a special moment, as bullfinches are bigger and brighter than robins. In fact if three or four arrive at once (collective noun - a bellowing), an even more rare occurrence, they look like candles aflame among the greenery.
As my fellow bloggers have recorded, it is the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch this week-end. I've bought a new pole with hanging bird-feeders for my little Blackpool garden and I shall be spending the allotted hour tomorrow making a record of who pays me a visit to feast on nyjer seed and fatballs. I'm not expecting any bullfinches.

Flutter! Flutter!

Pyrrhula Pyrrhula keeping up his strength in the bleak mid-winter

February is bullfinch month - or more correctly the bullfinch is the featured bird of the month on my 2019 Birds On The Wing calendar. Local folklore has it that the flame-coloured finch is a harbinger of spring. It's surely not going to happen next month, but give it a few weeks more and sightings of the elusive fellow will increase in tandem with the days warming up. When the time is right, the unbeliever and I will go bullfinch spotting once more.
And so to the poem, not about bullfinches but at least it's on an avian theme in honor of the big garden birdwatch weekend. It harks obliquely back to that rather cruel old French-Canadian children's song Alouette and is something I started writing one fine morning last summer but have hastily finished in time for today's blog.
All the action is up at rooftop height
across the town this early morning,
for a lark sings sentinel
on nearly every aerial
as far as sleepy terraced eye can see,
proclaiming breaking of another glorious day,
silhouetted against first golden light.
Alouettes, gentle alouettes,
can't we please doze one cosy hour more?
Why must you break so lusty on our dreams?
Your exaltations pierce our ears
and stir our drowsy hearts to part
from lovers, husbands, wives et cetera,
to recommence our busy waking frets.
For this consideration that you lack,
stark retribution has been sought
in darker times; but fortunate for you
our avian vendetta days are done,
and fortunate for you it's only in the song
our offspring pluck the feathers off your head,
beak, eyes, neck, wing, legs, tail and back.
Thanks for reading. Believe in the bullfinch, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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