Sunday, 28 August 2011

bird brain of britain

This afternoon, I cycled 21.7 miles, from home to West Kirby, into the teeth of a gale. Then I cycled back again with the same wind at my back.

 Google Earth reckons I did 21.7 miles. the trip outwards was about 15 miles. The same journey back was the other 6.7.

Notable stuff? Well the wind sent thick heavy rain laden clouds in from the Irish Sea, but I managed to miss almost all the nasty stuff. A couple of brief light showers cooled me down while other places nearby got drenched.

 The other notable thing was what the seagulls and pigeons did. We think of birds as being stupid, yet they sometimes prove to be a lot smarter than we expect. Some birds, such as parrots and corvids are famous for being clever, but we'd seldom put seagulls or pigeons into that category.

Somewhere along the line, the seagulls sussed out that repeatedly stomping on the grass causes worms to surface and provides them with an easy meal. Today I saw them repeatedly pick up shellfish, and drop them from a height to smash the shells, eagle and tortoise style. No doubt about the deliberateness of the act, since it happened not once but repeatedly. These gulls knew what they were doing. They also have a pretty good intuitive knowledge of aerodynamics. They handled the gale with skill and grace that the best human pilots could only dream of.

So what about pigeons? Ubiquitous and unloved. Who'd have thought they'd be able to put two and two together? Yet as I rode into the headwind, I passed a group of pigeons, and one of them took off and flew low, directly behind me, keeping station about 5 or 6 feet back, and veering from side to side to see where it was. I kept looking over my shoulder in amazement. this pigeon had understood that I would create a volume where the headwind was diminished, and took advantage of the fact.

Mr Pigeon, I tip my probverbial hat to you. You have taught me something new today.

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