Sometimes the man of the house can be really thoughtful. He suggested that we plant a tree over our little friend’s grave to commemorate his short life. And so it was done. We decided to go for an apple tree, which will doubtless feed the birds as well as other tiny creatures, and we also got some lovely bulbs that will come out staggered over the spring months, helping the bees at their business – a little salute to British wildlife. And it is here that we lay down our little friend, and hope that we are fortunate enough to meet many more as life goes on.
These guys are just lovely in life – their wings in flight, flashing their distinctive bold black and white colouring, are just gorgeous to see. I remember them pecking around our back garden in Lahore many years ago.
I do miss them – and that garden.
This is a rather sad and somewhat graphic story, so be warned.
I was standing at the large window that overlooks our garden a couple of weeks ago, watching a little robin bathing in the bird bath. The evening breeze was ruffling the trees and birdsong was in the air. Suddenly the robin darted into the hedge and as I was wondering what had startled it, one of the collared doves that live in the garden delicately flew down towards the overhanging tree right by the window. As I watched her, mid-glide, just four or five feet from me, something fast and ruthless swept past right by me and the dove seemed to explode into a puff of feathers. A young sparrowhawk had grabbed her and, within an instant, was on the ground in front of me, ripping the struggling dove to pieces as she struggled, pale grey feathers flying everywhere.
I was undone.
The man said to let it be, with a bird of prey the damage is major and immediate and there would be no saving our gentle feathered friend. I couldn’t tear my eyes away and watched the sparrowhawk take his time and eat his fill. It’s difficult to play the role of observer when nature seems so cruel, but the ‘hawk needs to fill his belly the same as any other bird I suppose. I have had a close encounter with a sparrowhawk before, an older female possibly looking to feed her young; it’s likely this young male was her offspring. It’s just that that very afternoon, the man and I had been sitting on the couch watching the dove and her mate canoodling on the fence in front of us. The gentle creatures seemed to be kissing and cuddling and then kissing again as part of their mating play, and it had made us smile and want to hold hands.
I had made a little pencil sketch of this lovely little fella earlier and thought I’d play around with it on Illustrator. He’s such a delight to look at that I wish I could find one in my garden, but they (Maluridae) are residents of Australia and New Guinea. Do look them up if you have an interest, they come in some wonderful, rather electric colours (so I haven’t actually done them any justice in my dark and humble version).
The wonderful Chris Spooner put up this fun tutorial today, so I had a go. Love my little robin, will think of some interesting application of this simple but striking technique soon.
Found a very cute doodle on the web, am going to try to ‘colour in’ all the birdies in the garden. Might end up as a cute wall deco idea for a kiddie room or summat. Hmm.
This little Starling was just too funny – there’s a phrase in Urdu that would get tossed at me when I filled up my plate with more than I could eat – ‘big eyes, little mouth’, here it is in action.
I think this little fellow was on his last legs, a tribute then, to all his hard work as a pollinating superstar.
Lady Goldfinch, not a frequent visitor, but a much loved one.
Some mamas and papas, some little wee ones, a blurry great-tit, a frog and some smelly flowers (the one on the left smells better than the one on the right, teehee).
The ever-so-quick Great Tit
A couple of weeks ago I was tap-tap-tapping away in my little ‘studio’ when suddenly the lovely birdsong that accompanies the rhythm of our lives morphed into a shrieking cacophony more suited to a certain Hitchcock film. It felt as if every bird in the sky had realized the end was nigh and begun screaming in unison. Lily and I jumped and ran to the back door to the garden, not really sure what was going on. I pulled open the door, Lily at my heels, and we were both suddenly frozen as we saw on the ground right in front of us a sparrowhawk, wings surrounding its prey and with another little fluffy body of a recently fledged starling nearby. It looked at me with that eye (oh, that eye!) and I was completely hypnotized – had I been a fluffy bunny that would have been the end of me I expect.
After what seemed like a while, though I expect was barely a couple of seconds, the bird took off and Lily sprung into action towards the spot where the sparrowhawk had been. I yelled at her to get away and she took off towards the end of the garden leaving me at the scene. Looking at the patch of grass vacated by the predator I saw the second of the little starlings get up and lurch, bloodied and spurting red, towards the cover of a nearby hedge where it collapsed and died. As I stood there, completely horror-struck by the whole episode, I may have let out a little scream myself (okay, okay – so am lily-livered city girl…*blush*).
Of course I could do nothing but fret until the man of the wilds came home and ‘dealt with it,’ admonishing me for having interrupted the female sparrowhawk (of course he knew it was) sorting out a meal for her little fledgelings back in the nest. To rub it in, he pointed out that she’d probably have to go ‘off’ a few more starling chicks in order to feed her family, the death of these little ones having been in vain (though he did leave them for cat/fox by the fence and, sure enough, just a tuft of feathers by the morning).
So I failed. My first encounter with Nature in her fiery glory and I played stupid rabbit *sigh*.Will now have to sit through a lot more Attenborough on Eden to compensate. But, at least I made a cool sparrowhawk picture to illustrate since I wasn’t really quick or calm enough to take a photograph. The feather textures are actually from a photo I took of a pair of duckies by the river, tee hee. Hope you like it.
And if you enjoyed my tale of woe – here’s another on the topic by Derek Neimann in the Guardian, also taking place in Bedfordshire.