Rainbow weather this morning: the birds seem to sing more clearly in the rain.
When we were in Rome at the beginning of last month, Mrs T rejoiced to hear a cuckoo in the Botanical Gardens; I was uplifted by the sight and sound of a patrol of swifts, screaming along the Via Aurelia.
It was a month before I saw and heard the swifts in Canterbury, and only this morning, at six o’clock, did I hear the cuckoo. He may have been some distance away, as even with the back door open I could not hear him an hour and a half later.
But he was there, insistently, when the city was quiet. Perhaps he did not care to compete with the Cathedral’s great bell Dunstan, calling the faithful to prayer!
Tradition says that today is the birds’ wedding day. I was therefore glad to see a gull with his black head complete on my way to church; and then we sang ‘I will raise you up on eagles’ wings’. The abiding memory of that hymn is of a day walking in the Alps near Embrun, France. Away in the distance we saw two specks, circling in the sky. NAIB and her brother wanted to believe they were eagles. Footsore and weary at the end of the day, we heard a most unfamiliar screech from behind a hill crest, and then they appeared over the ridge: a golden eagle parent and fully grown chick. It wasn’t exactly the hills dancing for joy, but four humans, singing and dancing, all weariness lifted along with our hearts.
There were greenfinches singing in the bushes as I walked home.
If you want to catch a playful dog, like our new friend Melba, it’s as well to pretend you are not interested in doing any such thing. The rabbits on Abbot’s Hill can tell when Melba is up for the chase and soon make themselves scarce. Wild birds will disappear if they feel something is watching them, hence the joy of a cold hide on the edge of a winter’s lake.
In the Nineteenth Century Richard Jefferies put it this way:
This is the secret of observation: stillness, silence, and apparent indifference. In some instinctive way these wild creatures learn to distinguish when one is or is not intent upon them in a spirit of enmity; and if very near, it is always the eye they watch. So long as you observe them, as it were, from the corner of the eyeball, sideways, or look over their heads at something beyond, it is well.
(from The Gamekeeper at Home, available at Project Gutenberg)
This evening’s encounter was fleeting. I was walking past the hazel bush on our street (yes, the squirrels did get all the nuts) when I heard a quiet, musical squeaking. Not from my boots, but at ear level; something on the railway? No, a young cock blackbird, his feathers very dark but not quite black, his beak still a muddy chocolate brown. I don’t suppose he was trying his sub-song out on me, but I felt privileged to hear it for a few seconds as I continued walking so as not to disturb him.
Let’s hope he finds a mate to appreciate his full-throated song, come the Spring.