The Thrush and The Blackbird

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
A thrush's struggle with a worm.

Submitted: August 09, 2016

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Submitted: August 09, 2016

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I was working at the outdoor potting bench in my small tree nursery when I noticed a thrush land on a stump some ten or fifteen metres below me.

This sort of thing happens regularly because there are plenty of birds around our property, and while they are never in danger, most birds will want to keep a little distance so tend to move away from me rather than towards me.

This bird came toward me, hop, hop, hop always keeping a wary eye on me, and then no more than two metres away from me she attacked what turned out to be an earthworm. The thrush, I realised had been stalking it all along.

The earthworm was a native, one of those green/brown species that can grow to thirty centimeters with a diameter of perhaps 4mm – thicker than a pencil! I have never seen these worms on the soil surface, usually they live quite deep down, maybe twenty centimeters or more. There was a soft bed of green liverwort so presumably the worm was in no danger of drying out but must have been moving downwards to avoid the increasing sunlight.

There must have been only a few centimeters of the worm visible to the thrush but it caught hold of it and had to work hard to pull it to the surface. I watched, fascinated at the considerable time and effort for the bird to eventually extract its prize!

Once the worm was out, the thrush seemed not quite sure how to eat the monster! I think it was trying to kill it – some birds will not eat live food, they must thrash it to death first, others will work their prey so the head can go into the beak first, then down it goes with the gastric juices doing their job! Down at Stewart Island I watched a Mollymawk do that with an eel (thrown to it by a fisherman), it took three hours for it to be totally ingested! The thrush dragged and pecked at the worm for a minute or two, then stood back – I think watching it to see if it was alive or not. Then another drag and a few more pecks then again it stood back to inspect.

A blackbird caught sight of this activity, and flew down close by to watch. Then, just as the thrush stepped back to check on it again, the blackbird swooped in, took hold of the worm and flew off with it!

The thrush was surprised, and looked around, unable to believe the worm had been stolen from under its beak! 

I wonder, do thrushes say, ‘Bugger!’

It was drama in the garden!


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