I often stop at the spot where George saw the Kingfisher; it’s where the river turns left, away from the Causeway in Canterbury towards Kingsmead. I have seen egrets and herons along there, but today there was a pair of strange looking — ducks? coots? No, neither of those, but these birds were in the water, or rather the shallows, well away from the road. It took a moment to realise they were wood pigeons, cooling off in the heat.
Maybe they got a taste for cold water when flying for Noah in the ark? Alfie the collie used to stand or lie in the river or a puddle to cool down, but he didn’t have to worry about feathers getting waterlogged. These pigeons had found just the spot where the clean water was flowing over a stony bed, and just the right depth. Alfie, however, was more than happy to lie in mud and bring it indoors afterwards.
The day was warm enough for Mrs T to seek the shade when we stopped at the Oxford motorway services. Perhaps that was why the starling took no notice of us as it sat, wings spread out, feathers fluffed, soaking up the sun, maybe half blinded by it.
The bird was so relaxed that only the arrival of the caretaker, emptying the bins, persuaded it to move into a nearby bush. Had it even noticed the two red kites, skimming the trees, barely six metres above us?
They noticed us humans and departed. He survived their survey,
Unexpected? Always unexpected: a flash of blue along the river by the Glebe and you only realise when he’s gone – that was the kingfisher!
That was yesterday; twenty years ago I was walking George home from school when we stopped to watch the fish in the shallows of the river. The kingfisher dived right at his feet, a metre and a half down to the water and emerged, fish in beak, before realising he had an audience, and made himself scarce.
The garden spectacle this week has been the two fledgling sparrows that have left the nest in next-door-but-one’s roof to flit and flutter to our back gate where they can perch, and cheep and flutter their stubby wings in the hope that their parents – or any passing sparrow for that matter – will feed them. There must be hope they will live, now they have spent two days out of the nest!
Here is one of them watching intently as his mother (or is it his aunt?) pecks at the fat balls over the gate. The fact that he was fed did not prevent him starting to call again as soon as he’d finished swallowing.
Although the adults are very tolerant of humans moving about the garden we share with them, Chico took off as soon as the back door opened. Three metres’ flight to the washing line, where he could not get a grip, turned base over apex before achieving enough co-ordination to crash into the holly bush.
The two chicks were soon back on the gate, ‘Please Sir (or Madam) I want some more!
It began with a low flypast by a Spitfire and a Hurricane, fighter planes from World War II; after that our eyes turned again and again to the deep blue sky. Then Vincent spotted a buzzard, not unknown in Canterbury – see 3 September 2015, Bravado of the Birds.
Not unknown, but worth downing tools for. Who was going to see him off, I wondered, recalling ravens, jackdaws and gulls escorting these predators away from their children – though sadly ravens are not seen over Canterbury today. But no jackdaw nor gull appeared, instead there was another buzzard soaring over us, and then two more. None of us earth-bound humans had seen four together over Canterbury before.
Too early in the year for this season’s chicks to be on the wing, surely? Were these four juveniles or two parents with last year’s offspring? Certainly two bore pale flashes on their underwings, and one of these was audibly and physically corrected when it flew too close to one of the others. We heard it over the roar of traffic from the inner bypass.
From up there the birds could see a long stretch of green: our little acre is on the river and just across the main road that runs behind us lie the Westgate Parks which lead to the meadows, and the cycle path to Ashford which we earthlings visited yesterday.
When we were working on George’s garden in London, we saw and heard quite a few parakeets as well as more common garden birds, flitting across from the cemetery park. Mrs T remarked on our recent visit to Amsterdam, where the parakeets were enjoying cherry blossom time as much as the humans in the park. There were also herons at the waters’ edge – plenty of that habitat in the city of canals – which reminded George of the herons on London’s Serpentine lake.
Let’s hope more birds adapt to city life – and that we humans adapt cities to be good environments for other creatures and ourselves.