North Northumberland Bird Club

Thirty years ago on this day Graham Bell instigated the inauguration of the North Northumberland Bird Club.

He has been its chairman ever since but this evening his task was to convince the audience that birds and humans have a great deal in common both in their emotions and senses.

He did so by speaking eloquently, humorously, passionately, knowledgeably, using images, imitation and examples.

Birds are unique because the 10,000 different species all have feathers.

Just like humans they use thought processes to make decisions about safety, eating, nesting, keeping clean, preparing for emergencies, protecting and teaching their off-spring and finding a mate.

They adapt to changing circumstances.

Although their faces cannot show emotions, their actions can.

Graham gave many visual and narrative examples of these, as well as showing how evolution has adapted birds to live in their many habitats.

Here are just a few examples used during his fascinating dip into bird behaviour:

Like us birds need to keep clean, they wash every day, scratch, preen their mates and off-spring, enjoy sunbathing as well as using smoke and, unlike us, ants to kill parasites.

There are the good and the not so good feeding habits.

Gulls ‘dance’ on the ground imitating raindrops to encourage worms to surface, crows drop nuts from on high to crack the shells, while ‘pirates’, like frigate birds and skuas, harry other birds to steal the food they have hunted.

Birds teach each other: Woodpeckers have shared how to eat peanuts from feeders.

Close observation by Mr Bell resulted in his seeing a male woodpecker showing its youngster how to drink by taking water into its own beak and dropping it into the youngster’s a few times then leaving it to try for itself.

They protect their nests and young.

Lapwings will fake injury to draw predators away from the nesting site and avocets will attack sheep if they graze too close.

Sadness and joy also seem to be felt by birds.

Some bond so closely with their mates that even when one dies the other will not leave it but stay close as if mourning.

Images showed rooks flying out of pure enjoyment, a group of swans gathering round fighting moorhens out of curiosity, two guillemots balancing on a log floating in the sea enjoying a ride, and a rook teasing a cat.

There are still mysteries to be solved - unexplained bird activities which remind us that we humans do not know everything.

Stewart McCormick gave Mr Bell the vote of thanks which was followed by appreciative applause from the large audience.