Yes, the spelling is correct. My lovely friend, Val Portelli, suggested I take a short break from writing and go visual instead. To be less authorish, she said, and who am I to argue with a lovely lady?
Since we moved into our bungalow, we quickly realised how quiet the neighbourhood was, but was it? The trees rustle seductively in the breeze, the crows fly overhead, cawing loudly, and the dawn chorus is deafening. Only the magnificent, and rare, red kites are silent, circling majestically on the thermals. No matter the time of day, all the birds are constantly calling, singing, and sending out warning cries. Without the sounds of humans, much to our delight, their songs travel far and wide. The finest symphony on earth is all around us and every day we hear something new.
I'm delighted to share some of the pictures we have taken over the last year and, as you will see, we have given names to our most regular visitors.
I'd love to know what you think.
It started in July 2019. The baby birds had fledged, the fighting for territory was over, and bird song rang out everywhere. We named the top ranking blackbird, Scruff. Why? Winning so many battles to keep his manor intact had left him minus many feathers yet he never moved far. We guessed he was so tired after all the fighting, and, with the endless supply of bird food my wife provided, why would he need to go anywhere else? But that amazing bird had become a surrogate father. No matter what bossy bird landed in the garden seeking food, Scruff would protect the recently fledged baby sparrows as if they were his own. He was like a sheep dog herding his flock and he never changed his behaviour until the sparrows flew away.
OUR SCRUFF - THE BABY BIRD PROTECTOR AND GUARDIAN OF OUR GARDEN
Alas, one day he was gone, never to return.
Next up, was Sir Percy, the pheasant. He arrived after the reign of Scruff. This wonderful colourful bird decided I was no risk and so followed me around the garden like a pet dog. He probably believed, I was a soft touch, and, of course I was. He'd arrive between eight and nine o'clock every day and if we hadn't seen him, he'd tap on the patio doors until we gave him his daily breakfast. Months passed and Sir Percy continued to surprise us. He wasn't the biggest pheasant, but he saw off the competition. But a much bigger pheasant arrived on his patch and even though we shooed the bigger bird away, we never saw Sir Percy again. Two other pheasants strolled into our garden, yet neither stayed long. I'd like to think the scent of Sir Percy was too much for them?
At the end of our small garden is a massive hedge some six metres high. It's a perfect nesting site for many different species of birds. With the gap between the hedge and the bungalow so narrow, it has become a feathered freeway for so many birds. No matter the weather, the birds fly and we can enjoy the free shows they provide.
Hector is another blackbird, a hardy blackbird determined to provide food for his babies. We would feed him every day. The first bits would be gulped down, and his mouth would be stuffed with food to take away for his young. As it is with all birdie parents, Hector had a huge role to play as he had to constantly provide for his offspring.
One clear and sunny morning we opened the patio doors, looked up and Hector flew into our lounge, demanding food. And then he pooed over the carpet, panicked and flew into the glass. I managed to grab him as gently as possible and walked towards the patio doors. Freedom beckoned. I expected him to immediately fly off but with a name like Hector, he was a brave bird. He hopped from my hand onto my arm, and looked me in the eye before flying off. Did he leave a calling card? No! However he did leave half his tail behind but I guess he felt no fear.
About the same time a female robin arrived. She had lost her tail but it didn't seem to affect her in any way. Like the other birds she had babies to feed. She would fly to the decking area and if we didn't take any notice, she'd sit on the back of the chair nearest the patio doors and wait until we gave her some suet. No Tail was amazing for she raised several baby robins from two broods.
Another day, another birdie day. We heard a bang, and walked towards the patio doors. A newly fledged sparrow had crashed into them and lay lifeless on the patio. We knew that sometimes they can recover if left alone but after guarding the body for several hours, we sadly gave up and I buried the little one in a deep grave. It's sad but nature gives and nature takes.
The weeks passed and we would provide, but on one memorable day, Hector brought three babies onto the decking and demanded food for all of them. How could we refuse our Hector who trusted us so much? He would pick up the food before giving it to the nearest baby. The noise was always loud as no matter how much Hector gave them, their demands were constant. The loudest, we christened her Bossy Blackbird - BB for short - never left us alone. She'd tap on the window, parade on the decking, sun bathe in different positions and would stay in the garden all day. Once more, we'd been trusted by the birds and we didn't dare to disappoint them. With blackbirds raising more young, they would entertain us every day. There was always food for them but BB liked to let the others know who was the boss.
BB SUNNING HERSELF WITHOUT A CARE IN THE WORLD
I HAD TO MOVE FROM MY SEAT TO TAKE THE PICTURES
My wife bought a cage for the smaller birds. Placing their favourite foods of suet and meal worms under the cage ensured the Robins, the Sparrows, the Dunnocks and the Chaffinches, could eat without being chased away by the larger birds. Even the blue tits would occasionally show their faces.
But one young sparrow went a wing beat too far. It flew through a gap in the doors, realised there was a problem and panicked. I had to open all the windows before it had calmed down enough to fly back into the sunshine, and, as expected, I had to clear up the poo.
Looking back, how Hector managed to feed three baby blackbirds was a miracle, for he rarely ate, preferring to give any food to his babies. Every time we saw him, he looked thinner, but luckily for us, and for him, he didn't fade as he still makes a brief stop in our garden every day. He's more cautious but he feeds himself well.
Hector by name and Hector by nature, he is truly a king of Blackbirds.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of all the birds seen in our garden or flown overhead this year.
THE FRONT SEAT GANG
Blackbirds, Sparrows, Dunnocks, Robins, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Thrushes, Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and babies galore.
THE BALCONY FLYERS
Red Kites, House Martins, Peregrine Falcons, Sparrow Hawks, Crows and Buzzards.
THE HUMAN FINALE
With the bird song so sweet in the morning, it's a delight to hear most of the birdie tunes throughout the day. Now that's what I call living, minus
the bird poo of course.
THE EXTRA BIT
A rare glimpse of the elusive red kite flying high on the thermals above us.