I am catching up with paperwork today; at least that’s what I tell people. Really I am sitting with my laptop at the kitchen table allowing myself to be pleasantly distracted by feathered friends beyond the back door. From my current position, I can see an enormously rotund wood pigeon strutting along the top of the fence, and blue tits, goldfinches and a pair of coal tits take it in turns on the feeders. A large flock of gulls is drifting across the sky overhead.
These simple sights make me smile and as I gaze idly out the window I think how nice it is that these birds come to see me. Of course, whether I am here or not, has nothing at all to do with the garden birds’ daily visits but sometimes it is nice to think the feeders I hang, the crumbs I scatter or the water I keep free of ice during the winter might make a difference.
I had to buy some more bird food the other day, the greedy ruffians had gobbled it all! I stood in the shop, browsing the display of feeders, seed, suet balls, nuts and mealworms, and the thought crossed my mind; these birds eat better than many of us humans! The book department revealed the same story; books of every shape and size and technical detail, dedicated to ‘common or garden birds’. What is it that makes them so special to us?
When chatting about wildlife to people I meet, birdwatchers and non-birdwatchers alike, from the nearly 100 year olds to the 4 year olds, the young mums with push-chairs and buggies, to the well-travelled twitcher loaded with telescope camera and bin’s, it is clear to see that it is often the creatures, birds or other wildlife, that come into their gardens which really capture their imagination.
The ones we watch whilst doing the washing up or eating breakfast, the squirrel that raids the peanuts, the tame Robin that comes to feed on mealworms from our hand or the Blackbirds and Thrushes that fight over apples in the snow, the fox that pops in for a midnight snack, the House Sparrows that rugby tackle each other in the bushes under the front window, or the Blue Tits rearing their family in the nest box by the back door.
Sometimes we give them names (there is a Duck on our local town pond called Donald, although whether he is aware of this I do not know). Many times I have heard people refer to ‘Their’ robin, or ‘Their’ pair of blue tits, and yet surely our existence is to them a matter of indifference; at times a convenience, at others a significant danger?
My favourite visitor came into my garden today; and brightened up my day. It was Jenny Wren; a rotund, cheerful bird, with bright beady eyes and upright tail, and such an attitude that she seems unaware of her diminutive stature.
Beneath the bushes where the rowdy Sparrows gather and the cheeky Blue Tits dash from tree to tree, between the flowerpots and discarded garden tools she hopped and crept, fluttering to pluck a spider from its web.
Lost from sight amongst the foliage, a quivering leaf or two betrayed her path and out she popped again, perched between the pink flowers of the rose, still flowering, that scrambles up the fence.
Suddenly the air is filled with sound, an explosion of song, crystal notes of pure joy and defiance; “This is me!” she seemed to declare to the world. She cocked her tail and flicked her wings and glared at me with a sharp eye. I glanced away, distracted for a moment and looked back to find the little bird had gone, hopping and creeping through the bushes and between the flowerpots, and over the garden fence.
A little bird came today; she brought a smile with her.
I hope she comes again tomorrow; ‘MY’ Jenny Wren!
They say an Englishman’s home is his castle; perhaps it is by somehow finding their way into our gardens, our own private snippet of this land we live on, that these visitors from the wild also find their way into a special place in our hearts.
(From an article originally written for Sussex Ornithological Society's members' newsletter)