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The bright Sunday morning sees me and nearly six-year-old scootering around Crystal Palace Park looking at dinosaur statues. We make a right pair — he clattering on the blue plastic three-wheeler, me skidding on the chrome micro. In order to avoid knocking into too many other promenaders, I decide to head for the picnic tables near the Anoplotherium herd for an early lunch. Or is it a late second breakfast?
Tucking in to our home-made quiche, and carrot cake, I notice a small bird flickering about high up on the trunk of an old tree at the edge of the clearing. It’s a nuthatch. From this distance its grey-blue plumage makes it look elegant and sleek, rather than the ‘plump’ suggested by all the birding guides. Maybe it’s just had a tough winter.
As we watch, it is obvious that it’s preparing its nest hole. One of several small round openings on the tree, this particular one has been partly closed off, to make it even smaller, by accumulated mud daubs, so that the entrance now precisely fits the bird’s exact shape and size. Occasionally it comes out onto the bark to fidget about, but most of the time it stays indoors and keeps bobbing its head in and out of the hole. What on Earth is it up to?
I can only imagine that it is picking up bits of rubbish inside the cavity, and dropping them out of the hole. It’s a good 10 metres, as the nuthatch flies, from my eye to the hole, and I’m darned if I can see anything. As we’re watching I talk the boy through what I think is going on. “Oh yes”, he says, through mouthfuls of strawberry fromage frais, “I can see it dropping bits; there goes one.” I squint. No, I’ll just have to take his word on that.
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