clever birds

Thinking of the birds who live in prairie shelter belts including the beautiful and cheeky magpie, we have (unusually) a pair of hummingbirds living over the winter in the summerhouse.  They are Anna's Hummingbirds, originally from California, but moving up the coast as it all gets warmer. 

Then, thinking of other proprietal names such as Bewick's Wren, thought I'd have a look at Bewick's A History of British Birds which he put together between 1797 and 1804, illustrating it with beautiful wood engravings.  Evidently he used tools for metal engraving on hardwood, and when he signed his name, added his fingerprint, both (the metal on wood and the fingerprint) unusual lateral forms of expression.

Here are his engravings of a rook and a magpie. 

In the drawing of the rook, there is a scarecrow just above its tailfeathers – a tiny message about the rook's character.  There are some obscure details of something behind the magpie – if ours are anything to go by it should be the 18th century equivalent of roadkill: magpies are omnivorous.  The most endearing thing about these birds is that they all talk, chuckling away at each other and us, making jokes, issuing warnings, natter natter in the apple tree.