Saturday, 20 December 2014

A Brewster bird and some medieval history

A beautiful visitor to Budleigh's sister-town of Brewster on Cape Cod.  We have kingfishers of course!
Photo credit: Ryan Bushby

I do take an interest in the wonderful wildlife of Devon, and sometimes I blog about plants and creatures that I’ve photographed. But really I’m a bit of a dunce in such things: not observant enough about detail, and happy to enjoy them at a superficial level.

But every so often my eye is caught by a flash of unexpected colour or an exotic-sounding name.

Like the Glossy Ibis, a flock of which turned up at Budleigh’s Cricket Club some four years ago and which I wrote about at

And these things are worth recording on my ‘museum in cyberspace’. After all, Fairlynch’s Priscilla Carter Room does have a display area devoted to the wildlife of the Lower Otter Valley.

So I took special note of a recent Google news alert telling me that a rufous hummingbird had been “attending a feeder in Brewster for some time.”  

Rufous? Surely that should be Rufus, I thought, thinking of William the Conqueror’s son who succeeded to the English throne in 1087 AD on the death of his more famous father, and whom I’d always thought of as red-haired, hence his name.

But no, the Rufus name was apparently because of his ruddy complexion, I learn from the excellent Wikipedia.


Red-haired or ruddy-complexioned? So many uncertainties about King William II, portrayed here by an unknown artist

I learn also that the man was “a figure of complex temperament,” described in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as "a rumbustious, devil-may-care soldier, without natural dignity or social graces, with no cultivated tastes and little show of conventional religious piety or morality—indeed, according to his critics, addicted to every kind of vice, particularly lust and especially sodomy."  

Well, that's something they didn't teach us at school. 

Fascinating, and according to Wikipedia, therein lies an explanation for his possible assassination in the New Forest. The monument seen above makes no mention of those vices, by the way.

Sorry about the digression. 

Back to the birds.  The wonderful Wikipedia, to which I donate from time to time, tells me that I’m right! This beautiful creature’s Latin name is in fact Selasphorus rufus, a reference, I suppose, to its red neck which you can see in the above photo.

Plenty of other birds found on Cape Cod were mentioned in the Cape Cod Times article by E. Vernon Laux entitled Area bird counts recording rare, unexpected finds’ which I found at

Of course another reason for my interest in Selasphorus rufus is that it has been spotted in Brewster MA, where I continue to follow the news in the vague hope that one day our so-called twinning may become official.

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