Birdwatching 12/1/10

January 14, 2011

I felt somewhat fortunate to be a birdwatcher in Manchester last weekend, as I saw a bird which, although commonplace in London parks these days, is still somewhat less numerous in this neck of the woods – the Ring-Necked Parakeet.

The Better Half and I were on a little stroll around Fog Lane Park, where the birds are regularly seen. Between spells of protecting TBH from scary dogs, I started to hear some fairly raucous calls, which TBH thought might be gulls, but struck me as more parrot-like.  Then we bumped into a gentleman toting proper binoculars and standing with the attitude of someone who’d just seen something. So I sidled up for a chat.  He reported three of the parakeets and advised me that I’d hear them before I saw them.

We had a nice chat and watched one of the resident Nuthatches for a while, before TBH and I moved on, without the birds having returned to the trees. Then, as we walked away, I heard the mother and father of all rackets emanating from the trees. There was no way it could be anything but the parakeets, so I dragged TBH back and we monitored the trees – you’d imagine that a bright green bird would be pretty easy to see, but it still took us a while to spot them – a pair, on low branches in trees, not that far above head height.

We slowly walked towards them, sharing the one small pair of binoculars we had with us, getting gradually better views and I have to say, I was totally charmed. When they’d finished yawping, the birds (a male, with the black ring around the neck and a female, without), indulged in some mutual preening, before executing what could well my favourite ever special bird move – a cheeky lateral sidle across the branch.

What a cracker!

It felt so strange and really exciting to see genuinely wild parrots in a park in Didsbury – they add a splash of exotic, bright colour, of glamour even, into our wonderful, but usually more modest local fauna.  That we only saw a single pair somehow made it more special (seeing birds in multitudes feels maybe less intimate, in some ways).  I am sure that the
parakeets will increase in numbers, now that they’ve established a foothold in south Manchester, but for now, there are still only a few of these emerald green beauts here, descended from intrepid escapees and unfazed by the harsh English winters.

As they nest in tree-holes, like many native British birds, their expansion will have to be monitored – and their racket could conceivably become a problem in residential areas – but nobody who sees one in their local park could be anything but delighted that Ring-Necked Parakeets have flourished in this country.  If colourful, charismatic birds like them and my Waxwings keep showing up, I might make a birdwatcher of TBH yet!