The Clerk in the Country

Tuesday 19th May 2020
Not the dawn chorus

There is much enthusiasm presently for the dawn chorus but I’ve found on my walks that the less musical bird calls are just as interesting. The confident cawing of rooks and crows is ever present along with a more timid version from a startled cock pheasant. A pair of mallards flew up near me recently and headed off together to the other side of a field, where one said to the other “Quackity quack quack”, which must translate as “The dyke over there is better”, because they wheeled in unison and flew back over me to their chosen spot. Then there is a strange creaky whirring sound; not a call at all but the rapid flapping of small wings as a pair of dumpy partridges rise diagonally into the air.

Partridges fly when seriously alarmed but, if merely slightly alarmed, prefer to remain on the ground, as I discovered a few years ago. While driving along a narrow lane, I came upon a male partridge which chose to make its escape by running along in front of my car. Unfortunately it reached the limit of its own territory, upon which a second partridge leapt out of the verge in front of it. Despite the terrible danger approaching, albeit slowly and with much interest, the two little birds began squaring up to each other, hopping from foot to foot, chests thrust forward. Only at the last possible moment did they fly off, in parallel along their boundary, perhaps to resume the argument elsewhere.