The Clerk in the Country

Friday 21st May 2021


Unusually, my visit to the Lodge to dispatch our latest newsletter took place in warm sunshine rather than torrential rain, allowing me to take a leisurely look around the Museum Gardens as I walked to and fro.  My eye was caught by a group of Wood Pigeons, instantly recognizable since I made the effort this spring to distinguish between the various different birds around here which I have always grouped together simply as “pigeons”.

The Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) is the largest, 16” long according to my big bird book, mainly grey with a pinkish breast, white patches on the neck, a black-tipped tail and, in flight, a white stripe across each wing.  The pair nesting behind the house are a devoted couple, feeding together, courting with a series of coquettish slow hops answered with deep stately bows, and quite inseparable until sitting on eggs brought a division of duties.

When walking, the Woodpigeon’s rolling gait always puts me in mind of a lecture many years ago by Professor Phillip Manning (then Dr Manning and a curator at the Yorkshire Museum) who explained to us that dinosaurs had not actually become extinct but some types had evolved into birds (“dino-birds”, as he memorably described them).  There is nothing frighteningly dinosaur-like about the Woodpigeon … unless you are a farmer.  A flock of them descending on an arable field can easily ravage a crop.

The photo shows a Woodpigeon with smaller Stock Doves.

All YPS members should by now have received our May Newsletter.  Interested non-members can see it here – YPS Newsletters –  and perhaps after reading page 9 may like to consider joining us.