Tag Archives: Pheasant

The tragedy of Colchis

All good classicists know the ancient stories of Colchis. The land where Jason and his argonauts went in search for a certain fleece. It was also the kingdom with a tragic princess, Medea, who – of course – famously avenged Jason’s betrayal by murdering her children (as you do).

Colchis was an ancient kingdom on the shores of the Black Sea where we find present day Georgia. One of the ancient towns was Phasis. It was around here where Western Europeans first came across a bird that they named after the location: Phasianus colchicus, or Common Pheasant. One of the most hunted birds in history. Millions are bred, over-fed, and shot every year in the UK. Some escape the gun, the cars, and the predators and eke out a feral existence across the country.

In the past decade only three or four have made it to the patch. In the past few days another bird made it here and has been patrolling the new paddock in the Old Sewage Works. It became the 112th bird I have seen on the patch:

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Common Pheasant (Phasianus cochicus)

It is the most exciting thing I have seen on the patch so far this year (as in: I haven’t seen much exciting; not, that this is the best of the best). A bird that is undoubtedly handsome, but that … honestly… I simply wish did not exist on these isles at all. One day I would love to see them where they belong, in Asia, and maybe on their westernmost territories, the land of an ancient tragic woman.

Since I have little else to say about my patch birding recently, I will jabber on for a few more lines about another tragic woman of history.

One day I stepped outside the patch boundaries and explored the smaller of our two local giant urban graveyards, Manor Park cemetery. To be honest, I didn’t much enjoy it. It is mostly filled with densely packed, and rather gaudy, gravestones and not a lot else. My mood was raised by a small flock of Redwing, but the highlight was a small corner that is not mown to within an inch of its life and appears to have been allowed to rewild.

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The best bit of Manor Park Cemetery

The gravestones are embraced by bramble, holly, and ivy whilst hundreds of saplings have shot up out of the ground (my guess all in the last decade or two) in that race for light that trees-of-the-clearing are designed for.

Somewhere beneath the ground lie the remains of Annie Chapman – a tragic woman in many respects: A poor, alcoholic, TB-ridden prostitute who became the second known victim of ‘Jack the Ripper’ in the East-end slums of Whitechapel. Her family, quite respectable despite the impoverishment that had befallen their daughter, raced her horrifically mutilated body out of East London to a small cemetery in an Essex village. Little did they know that East London would swell and grow and claim Annie back again for itself over time.

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A Big British Birding Year: Part VI (Oh Sandy!)

This weekend my quest to photograph more species of bird took me to one of the spiritual homes of birding: the RSPB HQ at Sandy in Bedfordshire.

Despite being deep inland, it is Sandy by name and sandy by nature; largely covered with heathland:

Heath

Although also with beautiful birch…

Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

… and other, mixed, woodland…

Woodland

It was walking through these woods that I saw one of our introduced mammals, descended from a few escapees from private collections from the 19th century onwards…

Reeves' Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi)

Reeves’ Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi)

They are the oldest known deer species, appearing in Europe up to 35 million years ago.

Muntjacs were not the only introduced species I snapped at Sandy. Two more, also additions to my bird list for the year, were:

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

… and the more naturalised…

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)

Red-legged Partridge (Alectoris rufa)

Other birds I added to my year-list were:

Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

Eurasian Siskin (Carduelis spinus)

… and the rather distant shots (merged below) of…

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea cabaret)

Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis flammea cabaret)

… as well as a shy and hiding…

European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

European Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis)

But I also managed to take some slightly better shots of birds already on my list, including:

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Common Blackbird (Turdus merula)

… and…

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)

My list building did not stop at Sandy either. I nipped into the Summer Leys reserve in Northamptonshire and scooped a Pochard…

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

Then I went back to my family home and added the 59th species of the year to my list from the back-garden:

Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)

Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla)