Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'

Above: Dahlia "Bishop of Llandaff"

Garden diary: August

1 September 2005

I'm very fond of that small and rather shy garden bird known as the dunnock (Prunella modularis, to give it its posh name, 'hedge sparrow' to give it its common name). When I first saw dunnocks in the garden I saw only a rather drab grey and brown bird, and couldn't distinguish it from a sparrow, until it was pointed out to me that it isn't a sparrow at all, and can be distinguished easily by its narrow beak, much thinner than the sparrow's.

I can't believe that I ever confused dunnocks with sparrows, as dunnocks are now so familiar to me. Particularly just recently, as there are several of them in the garden on a daily basis. I was surprised to see that there appear to be a couple of young birds, still being fed by the parents over the last week. This must have been a very late brood.

This morning, as I was standing in the garden having my early morning cup of coffee, a rustling on the outhouse roof alerted me to a dunnock which seemed to be searching for food under the leaves of the virginia creeper which is growing up there (must remember to prune it before it lifts all the tiles off). As I'd been standing there fretting about various weighty concerns, it was rather nice to be distracted. The dunnock shuffled about on the shed roof, lit by the early morning sunshine, and then was joined by another. Then another. Then there were four. I think this is the dunnock family I've noticed earlier this week. They were bobbing around, flicking their wings about as they do, and twittering to each other.

In the apple tree, simultaneously, a couple of blue tits were calling excitedly, and flew to the bird table for sunflower seed. One perched on a branch of the virginia creeper, only a metre or so away from me, and ate the sunflower seed that it had held between its feet, pecking away at the seed delicately, as they do.

The dunnocks continued their searching for food on the roof, before checking out the bird table. They're quite tame birds too, and come quite close, but unfortunately not close enough for me to have got any photos of them yet, so I haven't been able to make a page about them. Instead they just pop up every now and then in my garden diaries, as a brief mention here and there. This is probably an appropriate way to describe a rather shy bird which tends to be seen creeping in and out of the foliage, with, as the RSPB site describes it "a rather nervous, shuffling gait". I read somewhere that one of the country names for the dunnock is "shufflewing". A far more poetic name than 'dunnock', don't you think.

Back to September highlights and diaries


Helenium 'Moerheim Beauty'

Above: Helenium "Moerheim Beauty".

Garden diary: October