Living fast onto the Saltdean coast road doesn’t conjure up the most obvious vision of a birder’s paradise, which has always seemed a shame to me as I, for no particular reason, have a real affinity with any wildlife around me. It always seems such a privilege when a free creature visits my garden and allows me to observe their goings on.
And, dare I be controversial here, yes I’m going to go for it: I admire seagulls. They always look so fit and toned in their cleanly-defined handsome plumage, larger than life bodies, and with such a detached superior air – they don’t half take themselves seriously! So, I watch them from a distance, soaring over the cliff tops in every weather and none, and leave them to their own devices.
But I long for the trust and closeness of the little brown jobs. A moment’s visit from a wren busily hopping through the raspberry canes, as I’m cooking, brightens my day, so imagine the excitement when a pair of blackbirds made their home under our ramshackle wooden balcony last season.
It happened like this. The Bodger, (I use the term in admiration of the wood-turning fraternity), was carving and clanging under the balcony, taking a day or six to drink tea and repair the winter weather damage, when the yellow-beaked and eye-ringed turdus merula – yes, I mean it – arrived to supervise his building work. Barely had The Bodger hammered a few nine-inch nails into the underside when the sassy male bird hijacked the four-inch space between upper and lower planks and joined the Occupy movement. He soon called the missus, and the morning passed with contented sounds of clattering, banging and whistling – that was The Bodger – and the methodical rustling and fluttering of the large brown and black jobs, flapping him out of the way as they moved in for a summer by the sea. The kids were joining them later.
So, for ten days the three builders worked side by side while the rest of the household tiptoed timidly around them, occasionally peeking out with breath held. And the song, that you can hear below, quickly became background for our daily living.
Turdus merula merula, our visiting male, nest-building
If you want to know more or to hear the birdsong visit this link: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/b/blackbird/
As fate would have it we threw a party, fourteen days later. Not for the blackbirds, but for The Bodger’s birthday – one has to look after the staff. And as he took a quiet moment under the balcony before the arrival of unruly friends and family, The Bodger heard the first faint chirpings of baby turdus merula. Paternal instincts soared, and protection of his offspring became top priority of the day in an atmosphere of hushed but frantic excitement. Notices were posted and bouncers positioned at doors to control the incoming hoards:
The rest of the summer was spent bonding with the family, a sense of intense privilege pervading every part of the garden as the brood made themselves at home and after some initial flurries and flapping of wings, the parents trusted us to watch them learn to climb stairs, grow and fledge. It was such an outstanding summer, and this year we hoped fervently for their return, but the balcony had been made too pristine by then, the ivy and rambling roses cut back to suburban standards, so although they visited with a view to another summer by the sea, they made half a nest and then left. They’re not far away and still visit for worms, berries or insects, so maybe it’ll pay off to be a bit scruffier again next spring!
Learning to climb the stairs
Sunbathing in the dappled June light
by Dawn Austin Locke
"Dawn is a trained proofreader and copy-editor who supports authors, businesses, and academic writers. She teaches writing skills, and loves the natural world in all its moods. Her proofreading and copy-editing business can be visited at www.dawnproofperfect.co.uk ”
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