Hmmm, were you starting to think that I’d been kidnapped by aliens? Or maybe that I’ve been really, really busy doing stuff? Or that I’ve just been too lazy and unmotivated to write anything lately…? Could be any of those things, or something else completely. Hmmmm…

Anyhoo…

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This year my back garden has been claimed, it is no longer mine, it belongs to someone else. Not just my garden, but the gardens of some of my neighbours too, they all belong to one individual, they all belong to Dennis.

This is Dennis.

This is Dennis.

Yes, Dennis is a blackbird. At any time of day (and probably night) he’s never far away from his domain, a row of gardens with plentiful food, water and excellent perching potential. If I can’t see him I can hear him, and should another blackbird dare to set wing in his territory he swoops down from above and lands on a bit of fence near the interloper. If his mere presence isn’t enough to send the intruder packing, a mild form of combat may follow, more like a game of tactics than a real fight, a macho display of aerial superiority, which Dennis invariably wins.

Earlier in the year, at the turning of the seasons, the fighting would have been more intense, more violent, as the male blackbirds battled to establish a territory worthy of a good mate. Some older birds would come back and reclaim old territories, but there were always younger males, competing for space if no new areas of expansion were available, vying for the attentions of the females. The average life expectancy of a blackbird is just under two and a half years (thanks wikipedia) though the oldest recorded blackbird lived past the age of twenty one! I would guess that high infant mortality rates have a big impact on the average figure (why birds have lots of babies) but it’s nice to think that the next time you see a blackbird, it may have been round for twenty years, which would be quite cool I think!

Dennis isn’t just like any other blackbird though, he has a disadvantage in life, and one that makes him easily identifiable. He only has one foot. In the animal world, and the bird world, and yes, in the human world too in a different way kinda, it’s all about survival of the fittest. If a wild creature is disabled through any number of circumstances, at any point in its life,  it usually lowers their chances of survival greatly. That’s just how it all works…

What makes Dennis special is that he’s had to battle adversity as well as all the other challenges facing a typical blackbird and he’s come out on top. I have no idea how he lost his foot or how long ago, but he hasn’t let its absence affect his ability to be a dominant male. Dennis rocks! He wobbles and hops from branch to fence-post to bird-table precariously but always in control. Sometimes you can see it annoys him as he tries to scratch behind his ear or a wing and briefly loses his balance. Maybe his deficit in mobility has made him unusually cautious amongst his peers, and this vigilance has worked to his advantage. That’s the reason/excuse for my slightly (ish) grainy zoomed-in photos, he’s not as comfortable as some blackbirds are about being close to people and moves to what he perceives to be a safer distance more quickly.

One of the ways Dennis copes with his disability is to just sit down properly and make himself comfortable, as in the grainy picture above. And the one below.

Just chilling :)

Just chilling 🙂

In that position he’s quite happy saluting the rising and setting of the sun in song, as well as chatting with the neighbours, maybe gossiping, or comparing notes, or even engaged in birdsong rap battles! Sometimes he’ll spread his wings and catch some rays, all of us animals love a bit of sun. Sometimes he’ll just relax, keep an ear open to what’s happening on his manor. Perhaps he reminisces about summers past, maybe twenty of them.

I’m pretty sure he has a mate. I’ve seen a female in the garden, and he hasn’t chased her away, so he must be trying to impress her with his prospects. Unless it’s his regular partner and she spends most of her time doing her own thing while he’s on patrol. The important thing is that by the end of the summer Dennis and his other half have a healthy batch of youngsters leaving the nest and continuing his legacy. Luckily, blackbird populations across Europe are very good, and it’s one of the few birds not to be in decline. As long as we don’t continue to erase their environment, their future prospects, as well as many other species of garden birds, should be positive.

The graininess doesn't do him justice!

The graininess doesn’t do him justice!

As I mentioned earlier, Dennis enjoys nothing more than a good song, and I prefer the voice of a blackbird to that of a thrush or a robin, or even a wren. The songs sound more complicated somehow, and I always wonder exactly what it is that the blackbirds communicate to each other. I’ve tried to record segments of Dennis’ songs, but typically he gets mic-shy and shuts up every time I hit the record button. Here’s a link to an intermittent minute of tweetings from Dennis that I managed to catch…

If there’s any more to report on the activities of Dennis over the coming months, I’ll be sure to do an update. Hopefully we’ll be blessed with plenty of long, warm summer evenings so I can sit in the back garden and enjoy his company 🙂

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Something coming, sometime soon-ish, I’ve got plenty of ideas for posts rattling around in my head at the moment, I just have to make the effort to get them out of there and put them on here. I’ll try!

Until then, be sure to feed the birds, they make the world a better place!

Peace… ses x