Saturday, 27 March 2010


summer wind
a sparrow re-rights itself
at the peanut cage

Alan Summers

I did this pic to accompany Alan's haiku, for one of the events he's organising in Bath. You can find out more if you follow the link above...

This morning I was sure that I heard a chiffchaff as I wandered around making my first cup of tea. So I took the tea and sat at the open window in the front room.

I heard:

a green woodpecker
wood pigeons
a wren
blue tits
a starling
...and the chiffchaff.

I spotted it a few times, as it flitted from tree to tree; it landed in the plane tree outside the house, the tree that the magpies nested in last year; and gave a burst of song, then came to a branch very close to the window.

I kept perfectly still.

But it decided not to risk it anyway, and bobbed off to the next tree.

At one of my early morning wildlife-related meet-ups at the Downs cafe with Geraldine, Keith and Nick, recently, I met Myles Lucas, who was looking into why birdwatchers watch birds. My explanation was, or would be, something along the lines of 'because they are wild creatures whose space overlaps with ours, and it's interesting to get to know their characters and habits'. There is a lot of wildness going on close by, and it's just as wild as what you see on an African safari (and less likely to eat you too...). And the more you look, the more you see.


  1. as a strange child while others learned about trains and cars I memorised the observers book of birds. Sadly the report on activity in the garden is now hardly any better than " I saw some birds". What happens to all this carefully acquired knowledge? It must be locked in a secret file in there somewhere.

    Oh just saw a big bird!

    Caroline xxx

  2. I had to look up the chiffchaff.

    Sparrows are such courageous birds, they should be given more credit.

    At the moment there aren't many leaves so I've been following the adventures of a blue tit in the garden. As you said the more you look the more you see - and hear!

  3. We have it easy looking for birds in our garden...

    We have tens of sparrows that eat the bits if rabbit naw sticks that she drops, and the occasional black bird. Not really anything else.


  4. The Observers Book of Birds was my first grown-up book! For my birthday in 1963. I wonder about how well knowledge sticks- I've still got piles of knowledge about old aeroplanes, and have built on my knowledge of birds; but things like architecture are more fleeting, having come to it late, so I always have to look at a book to remind myself whether I'm looking at an architrave or a capital, or the thousand and one sticky-out things of a mediaeval building...

    Chiffchaffs aren't much to look at, Anji, as you probably know now; but the sound is one that I look forward to hearing as a harbinger of summer. I like sparrows, but they are apparently regarded as destructive. We don't get them round here, this being quite urban; the village we walked through in the Forest of Dean last week was full of them, though. It was nice to hear them again.

    That's a shame, Stace. I had a vague idea that there's be lots of migrant birds passing through Holland; maybe they don't make it to your garden though.

  5. "There is a lot of wildness going on close by, and it's just as wild as what you see on an African safari (and less likely to eat you too...). And the more you look, the more you see."

    This reminded me of standing on Magdalen Bridge with my wife not so long ago, traffic thundering by behind us while in front of us about six feet away a treecreeper combed the ivy on a tree trunk for insects completely unperturbed. It was as though the woodland canopy we were watching through being on a raised bridge deck was another world viewed through the Perspex window in a zoo, both were in the city yet the treecreepers world was most definitely not part of it.

    RSPB handbook of British birds for the younger me. The Observers guide kids were the lightweights! :)

  6. That thing of wildness in small places was the Big Idea in Robert Macfarlane's "Wild Places". Which he recycled as a radio and a telly programme too... but doesn't stop me having enjoyed reading, hearing or watching...

    Yup, lightweight, that's me. The idea of the YOC didn't really appeal at all. I was talking to some Green Party folk at a stall yesterday; they suggested I might like to join. "I'm a pathological non-joiner", I said. "We're the party for you, then" the chap replied...

  7. Did anyone belong to the 'I-Spy' club?

  8. My sister was the joiner in our family, she was probably a member of both.

  9. I had I-Spy books, but I had my doubts about sending letters to a wigwam...

    I joined the RSPB a couple of years ago, and I looked at a few copies of the YOC magazine. It suffers mildly from that awful jolliness that infects material produced by grown-ups for children whose parents are members of a club... though the Morris Minor Owners Club magazine children's page puts it well in the shade...

  10. I remember some wee books but not a club joiner, learned early at school that I was not one asked to join groups.

    Caroline xxx

  11. Better to start a club of your own anyway, Caroline!