Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Feisty Thrushes of Kings Mill Hospital

It is strange where animals set up home.

Hospitals are not places anyone would ever want to be, despite the efforts of the staff, and my mum has been suffering a while there now, watching the other patients come and go. We have tried to keep her spirits up, but it's hard.

Luckily, we found distractions today, in the shape of a pair of birds who have found a hospital a grand place to live.

I had already had an enlivening afternoon, because the hirundids have arrived in earnest on the water at Sutton in Ashfield reservoir. At the hospital end, the black silhouette of swallows are carving up the air into strips of molecule thickness, their powerful flight easy to admire.

But at the sailing club, it is the antics of the small, more fluttery, sand martins that really thrill. Standing on the slipway, they flash by in chains of two or three at water level no more than two metres away, before they execute a dazzling spiral turn, and come back the other way an arm's length above your head, little forked tails twisting in the air, wings beating.

But the real stars live in the hospital grounds, and have been entertaining the staff for years.

In this atrium at Kings Mill hospital, live a pair of thrushes. A solitary pair, in an area half the size of a football pitch.

Kings Mill. One of the thrushes is just visible on the "ladder" formation at left, near the bottom
 At times both will sit on the ladder formations on the side of the hospital wings, eyeing their empire. At others, one will perch on a gantry lower down, while the other feeds amongst the mosses on the lower roof you can see below. Their regular nesting site is at ground level.

They spend most of the time on lookout. And then when required they protect this space like flying tigers.

An inquisitive carrion crow swept into the space, perhaps looking out for food, perhaps just seeking the warmth the hospital must radiate out in abundance. Within seconds one, then the other, of the thrushes were on it, mobbing it clear out of the sky, back out over the building, into the wild unprotected space outside.

Mallards too, are no match for these ferocious passerines. Any passing green headed drakes are soon seen off with some fearsome flapping and calls.

And they are right to protect their space. It is warm, it has food in abundance, and no ground predators can get in, and any aerial invaders are seen easily, and early. These birds have earned the admiration of the hospital staff, and they certainly earned mine. 

And cheered up my mother, just enough.

Copyright Cream Crackered Nature

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