June 12: Rest day in Winona - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

June 12: Rest day in Winona

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ONE OF THE MOST celebrated songs of wartime Britain promised there'd be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover. Everyone sang it and nobody cared that there never had been nor never would be bluebirds over Dover. There are no bluebirds at all in Europe but the man who wrote the song, an American, didn't know.

Why all that? Because we have seen our first bluebird. It flew to a branch near our tent and stayed long enough to be admired, darker blue than we'd imagined and a different colour underneath. American birds are more colourful than their European cousins, of whom so many are just dull that ornitholigists lump them together as LBJs: little brown jobs. I remember my astonishment when I saw a cardinal, so bright and red, and I recall that nobody else thought it worth mentioning. There are no bright red birds in Europe and I'm still hoping Steph will see one.

Some birds have the same name as in Europe without being the same species. The first European settlers couldn't bother to find names for all that they saw and named birds instead after what they remembered. There are blackbirds here, for instance, that have bright red flashes round their necks instead of being plain common soot as at home. And the robin is a different bird. The American robin is more like a thrush with a red jacket, the European robin being smaller, redder, more pert in the way it perches, unafraid of man and aggressive towards other birds.

One thing the same here and there is that geese recognise the danger of individuals and small groups in open countryside. I stood at dawn on the beach of the North Sea once and watched as geese flying in from the waves skirted us in a generous semi-circle before resuming their course. They had learned to stay just a little further from danger than a hunter's gun could reach. American geese have perfected the same skill.

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