Sticks and Feathers. Both my children have always been slightly obsessed with sticks and feathers. Walks in the country result in new additions to the stick collection at the back door, and feathers floating around the kitchen floor. My car frequently resembles the inside of a bird’s nest as we transport our treasured finds back home, much to Stu’s annoyance.
But the interest in feathers has reached new heights since moving here and now the whole family are involved. It was Maddie who started it. She found a really pretty little feather in the barn about a week after we arrived at Fishponds. It wasn’t your run of the mill large, grey, slightly rounded pigeon feather. It was a small white one, with a brown and white specked end and a blast of orange in the middle. Over the next week or so, we found a few more of them in the field and started to suspect that they were from the Barn Owl who is often seen swooping over the fields at dawn and dusk. A quick google search and our suspicions were confirmed.
This new found information has fuelled the interest even further. Evening walks are spent with eyes down, scanning the ground for feathers. The beautiful rolling landscape and spectacular sunsets go mainly unnoticed by Maddie now as she hunts for another specimen for her collection. And I have to admit, I am just as guilty. I stopped on the third lap of a run round the fields last night to pick up a striking blue feather I had spotted on the first two laps. It’s pretty but turns out it is just a Jay feather. Still it’s one we didn’t have so is prized nonetheless.
We’ve invested in a fabulous book ; “Tracks and Signs of the Birds of Britain and Europe” which is already well thumbed and with page corners folded at the most popular pages. We’ve identified nearly all the feathers we’ve collected so far. As well as the predictable pigeon, magpie and blackbird feathers, we also have partridge, pheasant and sparrow hawk feathers displayed proudly in the garden room.
There’s a wish list of course, with a peacock feather topping the list as the most desirable. Not sure that we’re going to get many of those passing through Fishponds, so a visit to a stately home may be on the cards in the future.
Our new book also shows how to investigate the bird life through the droppings, footprints and pellets. Maddie has been asking me to help her dissect an owl pellet for the past few weeks as the barn is full of them. I have been very creative in my excuses not to participate but it turns out that Nic has taught this exact science in her biology a-level classes and has promised to perform this task with Maddie. Picking through owl poo. Not really my idea of fun, but I’ll let you know how it goes!