Thursday, 11 February 2010

flights of fancy

Usually when I've seen a sparrowhawk it has been a fleeting blur of deep blue, flashing through the trees or over the crest of a hill and away, before I could even say "Did you see that?"

But yesterday I was looking out of the kitchen window at the flurries of snowflakes falling slowly to the garden below, when a sparrowhawk wafted along the walls and bushes that divide the back gardens of my road from the back gardens of the next road. It perched for a while in the ash tree, then wafted back the way it came, swinging from side to side and fluffing out its wing and tail feathers to make itself big and slow, or at least slow for a sparrowhawk. It was hoping to flush out one of the small birds that come down to the gardens for the food that I and the neighbours put out; next door is very popular with the goldfinches and tits; our garden is mostly patronised by magpies, pigeons, squirrels and the occasional fox or seagull; the hooligan element of the local wildlife.

I mentioned this incident to the a chap I was having a cup of tea with, last night, when I was round at his house picking up Katie. He seemed to think it was odd to take such an interest in the local wildlife. I think that not taking an interest is a bit odd, missing out on all the creatures that don't so much share the city with us as exist in a sort of parallel space. Sometimes I try to imagine what it would be like to see this environment as they see it. Sometimes I stand on the roof and half close my eyes and imagine that I'm on a coral reef, and the birds flitting overhead or swooping through the gaps between the houses are really fish, and we're all at the bottom of a very clear ocean.

And then I come back to the surface again and get back to work.


  1. When we get local wildlife I love taking an interest. We have some amazing may flies and dragon flies over the summer - but I don't keep the camera to hand enough so I can't get shots of them.

    I have to say though that I am beginning to disagree with your profile statement a little though.

    You don't draw pictures, your draw great pictures!


  2. I'm glad it's not just me... I have been obsessed with imagining what it is like to fly (bird-like, not EasyJet) since I was able to imagine.

    Hooligan wildlife... do you take their patronage as a compliment?

  3. I'll send the magpies over to you then. My favourites are the toads, probably because I read somewhere that they get to recognise friendly people.

    Two robins on the windowsill at the same time yesterday. I've never seen two together before.

  4. Apparently Amazonian Indians see certain animals as actually being people who live literally in different universes. Maybe your sparrowhawk is like this.

  5. The Bristol Downs arrived here today from Bristol! After I've admired and studied it awhile I'll show it to a local friend who also draws exquisitely. We could use such a natural history guidebook, though I hope I've no illusions about how much work, solitary and collaborative, went into yours.

  6. I am moved to add: we got a pheasant in our garden this morning. She came right up to the kitchen window to hang out with us... downright conversational. I thought of you - but the best I could do was take out my phone and get a fuzzy snap on that.

  7. I had a dead cat in my back yard this week. Its behaviours included not pooing on the border, and not flipping goldfish out of my pond.

    I like the idea of parallel worlds. It's very much in harmony with some of those scientific theories of multidimensional universes ect ect.

    A depressingly large number of people are completely insensitive to wildlife. For them, the environment simply contains 'birds', 'brown animals', 'flowers' and so on. If it ain't rectangular and manufactured, what use is it?

  8. We used to have a big zinc washing tub in the garden, Stace, and even that managed to attract dragonflies in the summer. Marvellous creatures, aren't they?
    I went through a phase of flying dreams, Federay. They were so vivid and marvellous and liberating that I had a go while on a mountainside, just in case it turned out I really could. Fortunately, there wasn't a cliff below me...
    I should imagine that french magpies and english magpies would end up barracking each other like football hooligans, Anji, but thanks for the offer!
    I was talking with some wiccans, Angela, who had some very powerful spirit links with animals too, though I wasn't quite sure how it worked
    I hope you like the book, Larry; and I'm sorry I haven't written to you lately. My comms are all to pot at the moment.
    What did you do with the cat, Suzzy?

  9. This post and comments remind me how much I've been enjoying John Terry's Building Wings. Thanks again, Dru---I finally figured out the refrigerator sticker thing. I've only begun to explore the book's interesting and beautiful contents, but the design looks very user-friendly. Also had an extremely "real" dream of flying over cliffs last week, though I don't feel any more inclined to try it while awake. And last night was serenaded by a screech owl visible just above me in a maple tree as I walked past in the grey dusk. Each enjoying our space.

  10. Hmm, I've conflated both yours and JT's books above---should have left more space between Wings. and Thanks.

  11. "What did you do with the cat, Suzzy?"
    Popped it in my freezer - never know when I might want to serve up something different for dinner guests :-)

  12. Thank you, Larry!
    Probably best curried, Suzzy.