At L’Arche Kent we cannot let a year go by without some of us joining in the BBC and RSPB’s* annual Big Bird Watch – spending an hour at the Glebe,§ watching to see how many species and how many individuals call in to our feeding stations.
Nothing exotic here! The parakeets have not arrived yet, there must be plenty of pickings in the Thanet seaside towns to encourage them to say.
But we saw seven sparrows at once and a pair of moorhens: as you see, we are at the riverside. We were quite surprised not to spot any wood pigeons, but when our photographer went to speak to someone at the other end of the garden he saw that they had been there all the time, behind the shed and out of sight. The rats were there all the time too, but then it was the first day of the Year of the Rat.
As ever, the afternoon ended with a shared meal, in thanks for a shared afternoon enjoying creation.
*BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation, the radio and tv people; RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
§ Glebe: a plot of land for the priest to grow food on: a church allotment.
We recently heard from George, who has just started working in Cambridge, full of glee because the parrots are now living in Cambridge. He’s also seen them very much at home in Thanet, London and Manchester. How long before they colonise Canterbury?
This one ripping cherry blossom to pieces was in Amsterdam but could have been up to the same tricks in any of the English places mentioned.
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.
Sometimes Mrs T and I need to get out of the city and breathe fresh air, so we took a walk, or rather a wade – across muddy fields – on raised paths built by mediaeval monks – to a pub lunch. We were walking mostly beside reeds like these, behind and amidst which were swans and assorted ducks, blue, great, willow and bearded tits (chickadees), robins, wrens, finches; overhead crows, gulls, cormorants and – believe me – or not – a pair of parrots. They are established about 20 miles away, allegedly escaped from a film set in the 1950s – but rarely seen that close to Canterbury.
As we crossed the cloister at Luther King House in Manchester we heard a chuckle from the top of a leafless tree. A pair of magpies were building their nest in a fork of the upper branches. The structure was at an early stage, just a few twigs, but if they decide to finish the next it will have a dome and provide good shelter for the young ‘pies as they grow quickly into adulthood.
It was Mrs T who made the connection that it was Valentine’s Day, the day the birds are said to marry.
In nearby Whitworth Park we saw parakeets who clearly considered themselves wild members of the local fauna. We’re used to them in Kent but did not expect to spot them so far North!