Bird brained

Air raid shelter required

I love having birds in the garden, and one of the joys of lockdown #1, for which I am very nostalgic was to be able to sit in the back garden and commune, as it were, with the birds and the song, which everybody noticed seemed much louder because there were far fewer cars on the road.

I know next to nothing about birds and don’t have the patience (or equipment) to take up the watching as a hobby, but I’ve got a superficial interest in identifying songs and the beautiful plumage, even when it’s just a “small brown bird” like a dunnock or a wren or a chiff chaff. You’ve got to love the small brown birds and you have to appreciate the bravery and the song of the robin, the bird most likely not to be freaked out by your presence in the garden.

That said, I think we can all agree that pigeons are a scourge and a nuisance, the grey squirrels of the sky.

One of our short drives in Northumberland was especially upsetting because we passed a dead baby owl in the road, and then just around the corner was a dead kestrel. Fucksake! You expect to hit the occasional pheasant or pigeon, but a kestrel? I came over all Barry Hines.

We live in a pleasant leafy suburb, with lots of trees, and we get a variety of common garden birds. A greenfinch the other day, the occasional goldinch, lots of blue tits and the squeaky gate song of the great tit.

For years, I’ve felt guilty because we have a cat, and like the coward he is, he likes to feast on the small and the helpless. He hasn’t the wherewithal to land an adult bird, but will pick on the fledgelings, so for years I wouldn’t put food out because it felt like a mean trick. But he’s 14 this year, and spends most of his day asleep, so surely, I thought, about this time last year, it’s okay now?

I think it is, but now the tables have turned. This last month saw the arrival of a pair of mistle thrushes, and I’ve never known a bird to be so aggressive. I’ve seen magpies herd a cat out of our garden in France, and I’ve heard how angry the birds sound whenever the cat is in the garden, but I’ve never seen birds actually dive bomb the moggy.

My OH immediately sprung to his defence, keeping a broom handy by the back door and shooing the birds away when she saw them. I objected to this, because the birds have the right to defend their young, surely, but then the cat turned up with actual blood on his actual ear. And then, to cap it all, the fucking things started divebombing me when I was sitting in the garden. I was glad to be wearing a panama hat, I tell you.

Fuck those mistle thrushes. They join the pigeons on the shit list.


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