Six-thirty felt early to Will Turnstone. Not to Abel, whose sleepover had ended half an hour previously. He grabbed grandad by the finger and took him outside to look for frogs in the pond. But the water was a few degrees too cold for them. Instead the humans picked beans and a gherkin and went back indoors.
The gherkin was a present for Abel’s dad, who sang a thank you song – ‘Ogòrek, Ogòrek!’ It’s there on Youtube…
It was late morning when Mrs T called me into the garden. ‘What is the matter with the birds?’ she asked. Ever the pessimist, I suggested that they were discussing the grapes on our fence, which are approaching ripeness and becoming sweeter by the day. A few days’ sunshine this week has helped, I’m sure.
Clapping my hands did nothing to disturb the starlings – for it was they who had occupied next-door’s tall birch in numbers. ‘You’re wasting your time,’ said Mrs T, as indeed I was. I doubt they’d have heard much less than a cannon shot.
As I walked out, I realised that they were also mass-murmuring in the first three lime trees along the road into town. I expressed my fears for the grapes to a neighbour, but returned to find the grapes intact. Perhaps they were off the starlings’ radar. A few years ago there were very few locally, and the raids on the grapes were carried out solely by blackbirds. They are not in such numbers, and to be truthful, we have never done much with the grapes. So let’s see what happens.
Other gatherings of birds today: a skein of geese, high, flying North, maybe Brents making for the Swale mudbanks; jackdaws gathering on chimneypots as the light fades, before seeking the shelter of the capped chimney opposite Mrs O’s.
The birds’ sociability is a sign that the year is changing.
If it’s time to revive the Harvest Festival, it’s time to revive the Harvest Loaf, just like Granddad used to bake! it’s traditional to add some wildlife, Mrs Tittlemouse, a spider, a beetle.