Thursday, 9 August 2007

Birds in the Czech Republic

I was sitting on the terrace the other day drinking a mug of tea, when there was a loud clattering on the stable veranda. I looked up expecting to see one of the local dogs looking down at me or at least the farm cat, but no – a small bird was peering over the edge. The bird was dark brown-black with a chestnut-covered tail and rump. He is a regular visitor to the yard searching for insects in the crannies of the barn walls. I am no ornithologist but by dint of buying a book of European birds I know him to be a black redstart. Other regular visitors to the yard include a nuthatch, with its black eyestripe like some designer sunglasses and lovely blue-grey wings and head, and house martins who nest under the eaves and do aerobatics against the sky. NB the house martin is not to be confused with the pine martin. The latter is also common here and a pest – such a confusion led to my husband talking at cross purposes with our Czech friend, who told us that martins chew their way through cables and so many Czechs put martin traps in the lofts!

Living where we do in a small village near to the Czech Sumava forests the common birds are less those of a English suburban garden but more those of woodlands and open fields. I regularly see a treecreeper working the bark of one of the trees that line the road to Horice. As for buzzards they are almost so common around here for it to be remarkable when you do not see one. Once my husband saw a buzzard flying over with a large grass snake in its talons. Another bird I have seen on my walks to the woods is the grey-headed woodpecker – something we do not get in England. Some of the villages on the wetlands around Ceske Budejovice have wheels erected on poles to attract visiting storks, which once they have nested you will see in groups in the fields. The last bird that I think I will mention is the butcher bird – the shrike – which was sat half way up a silver birch the other day with its cruel long hooked beak and harsh cry.

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