From The Desk

In the little moments

Its in the little moments that a fascination with the world beyond our human concerns is sown. The little moments, that like a dolly zoom effect in a movie, grow in an instant into very big moments. There is so much life poured into those moments. They are vital, quickening. We only have to look.

Look, and see blackbirds posing grumpily on gate posts in the morning.

See a juvenile goldfinch, barely weeks old and filled with curiosity, visiting a bird bath for the first time.

See a juvenile robin, all unknowing bravado, settle down for a sunbathe.

See a chaffinch, still singing loudly about wanting a ginger beer on the summer solstice, barely feet above your head, unconcerned at or not noticing your presence.

And see a squirrel, stretching to pull up a dandelion leaf from beneath a pot to eat it….

…then take a drink…

…Then eat a lone ear of wheat that must have grown up from a stray seed that fell from a bird feeder in the deep winter, showing off its moulting of winter fur along its back…

…then reach for another and fall off.

Stray moments. Random moments. Full, rich, glorious moments. Happening every single day, just outside your window. Stop and look, the wild is right there.

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One Windy Morning

The street trees are at their leafiest now. The wind stirs them, makes them dance to its commands. They flex, they creak, they roar and as they do they make their own music, the counterpoint melody to the wind, symbiotic layers of sound. The orchestra is in full flow.

Its still early, the morning rush has not yet fully begun. The occasional car rolls slowly past. Goldfinches chatter. Blackbird sings. Sparrows cheep. Woodpigeon coos. Crows call, getting louder as they fly past. Front doors get closed. Children shout and laugh. Yet beneath it all is the wind, the endlessly beautiful and magical sound of the wind through the leaves. Whispers shouted loudly, whispers that could tell us such secrets.

Its only the sound of one windy morning, captured by a microphone. Only that and so much more, because in these sounds are more tales than a thousand words or a thousand pictures could tell.

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Sunday moments

The juvenile robin is growing bolder by the day. He pops out from the cover of the bush at the front of the house to perch on the wall, already practicing his Christmas card poses. Tail is up, wings are flared. “Tik! Tak!” he challenges to no one in particular, attempting to claim this land as his own, like a child declaring that they are the king of the castle. I doubt the parent bird would agree, but this youngster is becoming a little more robin each time I see them.

On the fence a dunnock seems unconcerned with all this. They’ve got feathers to maintain, a much more important task than dealing with the bravado of youth. Bending every which way, the preening session is long before the bird is finally satisfied.

The juvenile blue tits are still resident in the back garden and seem to have claimed this feeder pole for their own. They don’t have to fly to the main pole, just walk down the white willow branches and hop down on top of the suet feeder. Stay all you want, little blue tit. The years I went without blue tits in the garden after a neighbour grubbed up their garden and the favourite habitat of the blue tit population in the area were long indeed. You’re safe here.

This one particular pigeon seems to have developed a thing for lying down. Whenever I see them they’re either lying down or spend a good 20 minutes of slow, deliberate wandering around before finally settling down. Its a curious thing. I swear I can almost hear a sigh of relaxation as it finally decides its happy and lies down. Why fly when you can perch, why perch when you can lie.

Looking for signs of that suspected blackbird nest in the copse I find something else altogether. I’ve heard wren singing in the copse for weeks, but never seen the songster. Today I did and not just one wren, but two, both emerging from another bush that hugs the edges by the road. Is this another nest I’ve missed? Clearly I’ve been missing out on a lot by intentionally staying away from the road side, intentionally taking the opportunity to enjoy a little escape from the urban noise. The birds are a lot brighter than me about such things. They know a good spot that no one will disturb when they see one. Lesson learned, little wren. Its a pleasure to finally meet you.

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Goldfinch Mornings

Robins and Blackbirds. Blackbirds and Robins. Sometimes Wren. Sometimes Dunnock. Over the years that has been the story of morning birdsong I hear from my desk in breeding season.

Until this year, when a new regular joined the band. Joined and stayed for every morning performance. Goldfinches.

Their song, varying between the strident and forceful to wistfully melodic, has cut through this year. Cutting through over the noise of human activity in the mornings, cutting through over the “badger badger” beat of car stereos. Perhaps because of an increase in numbers – I’m certainly being charmed by occasionally seeing charms of goldfinches in the street – perhaps because I’m listening more closely.

They are elusive creatures, however. I’m hearing them in the morning an awful lot more than I’m seeing them. It seems they may be singing from just out of my view, no matter how I crane my neck to find the source of their tinkling tunes. When I do get to see them, perched in the lime tree just outside the window, it makes my morning.

“They look like little parrots” one neighbour said. They look like great treasures to me. 20 years ago, I was thrilled to see a little charm of goldfinches for the first time, when I flushed them accidentally while walking in the depths of the English countryside. Now they’re in my street. Not only here, but by the evidence of some of their activity it looks like they’re staying…

Be happy in your home, little parrots, great treasures. You’re making me happy by being here.

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Appliance delivery day. Something large and white that says “2 man lift only” on the packaging but one hardened delivery person carries in on their shoulder. Upheaval to the routine. Change. Waiting. Lots of waiting for 5 minutes of action when one white good goes out feet first and its replacement lands. My hands are tied, can’t go out and explore, have to wait.

There’s a sense of the seasons passing as I look out of the window from my desk. While some birds are still parading around with a beak full of food, a whole new generation is already fending for themselves.

Even the presence of a rival male only elicits a half-hearted flapping response today.

The starling juveniles are happily looking after themselves, more accompanied by parents now rather than directed by them.

When they turn up on the feeders its often the juveniles who get there first now, some of their youthful ungainliness disappearing with experience, though their genetic starling clumsiness will never leave them as their parents demonstrate.

Sparrows, whose offspring are already losing their gape and you have to look hard to see which are older birds and which are 2018 edition, carry on regardless on the roadside verge. Or at the feeders, where their presence is always welcome, even when they’re being particularly argumentative and scrappy as they were today.

Blue tit is still busy at the feeders, trying to quell the constant calls of the fledglings in the willow tree. During the afternoon a magpie blunders into the tree, cackling and screeching, prompting loud complaints from the blackbird parents and scattering the blue tit fledglings from their haven. One ends up in the bush beside the feeders, winning the lottery as it gets on with feeding itself on the bonanza. One ends up right below the open window where I sit and wait, giving me my first close-up view of blue tit fledglings this year.

Worth waiting for.


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Crow Patrol Uncovered

For weeks I’ve been watching an ongoing battle of crow versus squirrel from the comfort of my desk. Its a battle that has been rather one sided, it seemed, with squirrel repeatedly just managing to escape a very determined crow who pursued it very intently. Around trees, over hedges, across the road, its been loud and intense.

“Wait, is that Crow coming???”

Now the reason for all this aggression has been revealed – the crows have got a fledgling!

I spotted it hunkered down in a neighbours garden, just before one of the parent birds did a fly-by warning of squirrel, who was clinging to the trunk of a street tree. The crows must have been repeatedly warning or chasing off squirrel from their offspring, as egg or chick. Squirrels are, of course, notorious nest raiders. Top parenting job there, crows.

I’m not so sure that fledgling has developed too many crow smarts yet, however. After squirrel was warned and thought that going in the other direction was a good idea, both crow parents had to work together to see off a neigbourhood cat who had spied the fledgling’s vulnerable location. It was noisy work and a lot of effort mobbing the cat before it was dissuaded from its stalking. Meanwhile, the fledgling watched all the action atop a gate post.

“My dad can fight your dad!”


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