Bird Song

The cuckoo of May Day Eve is still vocal across the meadow. He must be spending his time in the woodland on the disused railway bank. He’s the first resident cuckoo we’ve had so close in a great many years.

We recently returned from Wroclaw, Poland, where the house looked across meadows to an active railway track. The trains asserted their territorial rights by whistling as they approached the nearby level crossing.

Also vocal in claiming their territory were blackbirds, a most emphatic and persistent reed warbler, a cock pheasant and two cuckoos, one of them a little hoarse. The birds’ outpourings made early morning tea a pleasure in the tiny back garden. I like to think their emotion is one of celebration as well as assertion: enjoyment of the gift of home.

As for the cuckoo: he had no home, and was probably hatched in the warbler’s nest, down by the railway line’s territorial marker – the reed-filled ditch.

I found myself wishing that the birds’ territory would not be entirely swallowed up by the houses advancing, terrace by terrace, out of the city. Perhaps the railway and reed beds will provide a lasting haven for the smaller birds. I doubt they will shelter the pheasants once the fields are all built over.

And yet; it must be a joy to move out of those grey communist era apartments into a place of one’s own, a room of one’s own. Virginia Woolf almost took that for granted – then realised how precious a gift it is and wrote about it. I have to confess to rubbing my house keys like a talisman as I turn the corner and make for home. Let’s say I know how blessed I am.

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