Running with the birds

I went for a beautiful run this morning along the Grand Union Canal towards Brentford Lock. Cold and sunny, a perfect winter running day. No headphones today, just listening to the thoughts in my head and the birdsong. When I’m out I like to watch out for all the different birds I can see. Today was a good day – I saw at least 14 native species and a bonus bird – more later!

River Brent and Grand Union Canal

In the photo above you can see where the River Brent converges with the canal. The habitat along the side of the river/canal is managed largely by the Canal & River Trust. There is a lot of woodland, and open green space on both sides of the canal, although further down towards Brentford it gets more industrial. It makes an ideal home for a variety of birds, as well as other wildlife.

Winter Wren
Troglodytes Troglodytes

The wren was the smallest bird I managed to see this morning. It has such a cool Latin name, meaning ‘cave dweller’ because it tends to forage for its food (insects and spiders) in small crevices. It is very loud for its size and has a complex song, although I didn’t hear it singing this morning. There are lots of traditions associated with the wren, which has its own day on 26th December. Some of the traditions noted on the Wikipedia site are a bit sad because they involve killing a wren 😦

A much happier story is that of the wren and the eagle, where the wren outwits the eagle to show that being clever is more important than being strong. The two birds compete for the title King of the Birds by seeing which can fly the highest – the wren hides on the back of the eagle, and as the eagle tires and begins to fly lower the wren takes off to fly even higher and win the crown.

I found the poem of the wedding of Jenny Wren and Cock Robin here – the website is meant for children but it’s interesting to hear/read the poem. I have learned a lot about wrens and the folklore surrounding them writing this post. For such a tiny bird they are big in the literature!

The birds I saw and noted today were: robin, wren, mallard, swan, moorhen, coot, heron, cormorant, blackbird, pigeon, jay, magpie, parakeet, crow and – flamingo! Yes I did indeed see some flamingos although not exactly in the wild. I peeked through the fence of Hanwell Zoo.  

Flamingo in Hanwell!

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