The great bell of the Cathedral was chiming the hour, but that was not the sound that caught Abel’s attention. It was a blackcap perched on a fence about eye-level to both of us – Abel was lifted up on the bike seat so could see clearly. And hear and ask, what’s that bird?
When the little bird had ceased warbling, we looked up in the trees around the theatre and Dominican and spotted a pair of wood pigeons. We had been talking about them a few minutes before, when we saw a few town pigeons foraging outside a café.
There’s no need to be 3½ years old to marvel at the blackcap or the robin, blackbird or thrush’s song. Listen out, and be grateful!
We, the half-barrel group of gardeners at L’Arche Kent – had been looking forward to the Big Bird Watch since Christmas, so it was good to gather again at the Glebe to see who might fly in.
The moorhen just walked in from the river alongside, otherwise the rest flew in. Four robins were twice as many as we might have hoped for. The bird table must be shared territory, but one of them was prepared to chase all comers – except his mate – from the feeder by the river gate. Even the bird table was only grudgingly shared and there were a few ruffled feathers when three or four robins were there together: rights to the table had to be asserted!
There were at least seven sparrows, that being the most we saw at any one time. I think that was more than last year. The highlight for L and G was seeing a pair of dunnocks. They managed the feeder but were happier pecking about on the ground. But two dunnocks were two more than last year, and they were too shy to present themselves for the photoshoot a couple of days later.
What else? blue tits, great tit, wood pigeon and collared doves, blackbirds, and a blue-green Kubaburra bird-man flapping his wings and frightening the others away.
Having fed the birds, the humans fed themselves and looked forward to a new season of gardening. Watch the weather and watch this space!
It was a great pleasure that the first bird I heard this year was a song thrush from a bush in a neighbour’s garden, closely followed by blackbird, starlings, pigeons, jackdaws … suburban Canterbury on wings.
I gave greater pleasure to Mrs Turnstone when she heard that in the course of tidying the woodstore, separating the kindling from the logs that had been hastily laid on top of them, I had seen a woodmouse scurrying to safety. She had not liked laying down poison for the rats that had infested the other end of the garden, fearing for the colony of mice that has been here longer than the family Turnstone. This year’s Mrs Tittlemouse is made of stern stuff.
A grace note to the story: the kindling was 18 month old apricot. Clattering the sticks together released the scent of the fruit, just as the leaves did. See ‘Two unexpected autumn gifts’, November 24th 2018.
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.
Imagine working out for the first time that these are individual birds!
Mrs Blackbird with nesting material
Seeing the world through new eyes: what a blessing!
Our grandson is a year old. Twelve months ago he could not focus at a distance, so a great deal of what goes on around us he is seeing for the first time. That index finger is forever pointing at something interesting; today the birds. Sparrows in next-door’s roof, arguing the toss in great excitement; starlings in family parties, descending on our tree, never silent; the cock blackbird, hidden by the leaves, but even louder in his song – or his warning notes – than the others. Louder still, the herring gulls circle, often calling though sometimes silent; magpies and pigeons stalking the playing field, but best of all a jackdaw, who leaves his group and walks beside the buggy for a good few yards, no more than five metres away, bright eye locked onto bright eye. Bird! Bird!
Before the traffic roar started this morning, I was out of bed and making a drink. The gulls, pigeons and collared doves were busy calling, blackbird and robin asserting their territory, but right outside the kitchen window, a scrap of brown feathers expanded to three times its rightful size and proclaimed its love for Jenny.
If she’s Jenny Wren, is he Johnny? She followed him, away across the back gardens.
Ten winters ago we put the nesting box in the pyracantha outside the kitchen window. Blackbirds have built on top of it, twice, and small birds have used it as a winter roost, but now it holds a blue tits’ nest. These tiny creatures, also known as titmice, are close relatives to chickadees.
I’m glad to have them around, since they eat lots of insects, including the aphids on the apricot tree. So the tree never gets sprayed to keep them fed and the garden alive with birds. Mrs Turnstone is mighty pleased, and it’s a joy to see the cock fly in under cover of the bushes along the public footpath. I think Mrs Bluetit is still sitting on eggs.
Meanwhile, as well as the starling in the eaves nearby, there is a robin in next door’s yew and somewhere in the ivy on the wall is Mrs Blackbird. Collared doves are in the birch, wood pigeons in the lime planted after the hurricane, while a hedge sparrow singing opposite the kitchen window means his hen must be nearby. House sparrows seem not to be nesting with us this Spring, but before now they’ve had the second brood above our bed after a first elsewhere. The cuckoo I’ve not heard for a week or more which is probably good news for the hedge sparrow.
Our roses are at least two weeks behind last year coming into bloom. No Mermaid yet, nor Alberic Barbier; there are some roses in South facing gardens up the street, but turning onto the footpath there is a noticeable drop in temperature out of the sun and into what can be a wind tunnel, channelling the SouthWesterlies that come along the road opposite.