A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Feeding Station

The snow came and the snow went. With the advent of this spell of colder, at times freezing weather, a greater number of birds alighted at our garden feeding station. Our daily list was blackbird, robin, dunnock, chaffinch, greenfinch, wood pigeon, collared dove, great tit, blue tit. But then the coal tits and long-tailed tits arrived. Here are 3 long-tailed tits on the half coconut shell:

And just yesterday, while I was taking a quick scan through the binoculars, I was lucky enough to spot a treecreeper corkscrewing up the trunk of the flowering cherry tree in the picture. This is the 1st I've seen in the garden. They're delightful birds - white below, speckled brown above, with a slender, downcurved bill.

I've also seen the occasional wren, and thought I glimpsed a sparrow hawk out of the corner of my eye. There are no sparrows or starlings at all this year, though there were plenty in the garden of my father's isolated house in the country where I've been staying recently to sort out his things (lots of fieldfares there too). Often we get goldcrests in the winter, but they seem to prefer the Corsican pine in the back garden (in the spring linnets sometimes use the very top of this tree as a song post). I'm surprised we haven't seen the odd pheasant or green woodpecker as we do some years (there are plenty of pheasants in the fields and spinneys on all sides of the village, but we're right in the centre). What I'm longing for is to hear the springtime song of the song thrush - for me the most evocative song of any British bird, apart from the nightingale.

I'm suddenly reminded of the time last July when a grey heron walked into our house and started confusedly tapping at the french windows of the utility room - photos and description here!


The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Ha! No goldfinches yet, huh? Still, your bird list sounds pretty good—exotic and interesting. I like all woodpeckers so your green woodpecker is up there at the top of my envy list. Your treecreeper sounds, and appears, a lot like our brown creeper, which I spent a bit of time yesterday trying to photograph (with mixed results.) I'll have to look up that song thrush and try and hear a bit of its song online.

I think a heron visit should be considered a great honor. I can't see one of my great blue herons ambling up from the river and sauntering inside—no matter how many flopping fish treats I laid along the path as enticement.

Glad to see you back online, BTW, after what I'm sure must have—at best—been a time of mixed emotions as you sorted through your father's home.

Jay said...

There are two birds I have seen just once in my life, and the treecreeper is one of them. They're quite distinctive, aren't they? But not quite as distinctive as the other, which was a hoopoe! We thought we had an escapee from an aviary before we looked him up!

Love the heron story!

The Solitary Walker said...

My father kept EVERYTHING. Sorting it all out has been, and remains, a nightmare. He used to have a small milling business - and seems to have stuck half of all his machinery into his garage on retirement.

I'm wading through belts and pulleys, rusty wheels and axles, old corn hoppers, tin after tin of rusty nails and screws, redundant lawn mowers, broken and unfixable radios, electric fires and vacuum cleaners, plastic bottles full of weed killer, rose fertilizer and engine oil - all of them decades past their sell-by date - and hundreds of plastic bags, iron staves and planks of wood - all put aside 'for a rainy day' or in case they could be fixed and be useful one day. Of course nothing was ever touched again.

But I mustn't be hard on my father about this - he came from a generation (he was born in 1918) that believed in 'make do and mend', 'waste not want not' and 'look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'.

What I am sorry about is that he never seemed to have much pure, unadulterated joy in his life. Even after he retired (when he well into his 70s!) he and my mother took it upon themselves to sort out the accounts for the Methodist chapels in the area (my mother was a good bookkeeper and had worked in a bank before she married). And it was long after that before she contracted Alzheimer's, and my father became her carer for a difficult 5 years...

I love woodpeckers too, Grizzled. As well as the green woodpecker we have 2 other types here in the UK: the greater spotted and the lesser spotted. The lesser spotted is not frequent round here - but the green and the greater spotted are reasonably common if you know where to look.

The Solitary Walker said...

I have never seen the spectacular hoopoe, Jay. but would absolutely love to see one. (Just missed seeing one in Majorca once.)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…I know exactly what you're going through in the sorting. My mother (born in 1911 and of the same wast-not-want-not mentality) was not the oldest in her immediate family, but she was the last of the siblings to die. Not only had she kept practically everything from her life (and much from her parents, when they passed away) but also from her last two sisters, who died, a year apart, about fifteen years ago. From attic to basement, the place was stuffed—some things junk, a few worthwhile. But not in any order whatsoever. (Oddly, there wasn't much clutter on the level where Mom actually lived.) A box might contain arrowheads picked up on a great-grandfather's farm 150 years ago, old war medals, a packet of chewing gum stale as a rock, and the plastic drinking cup from an aunt's final days in hospice, upon which Mom would have affixed a note with date and details so it wouldn't be mistaken for plain old rubbish.

My best friend, another writer and outdoorsman, who's almost thirty years my senior, is about to succumb to Parkinson's Disease in a nursing home. He's been there a year—only getting really bad over the past month. But the year before moving into the nursing home, he began giving away almost every one of his possessions—books, fly rods, pieces of furniture, household goods, camera gear, anything family or friends wanted. Items not taken but useful were donated to charities; a few small things were sold at a yard sale, and the rest was hauled off in the trash. By the time he got ready to make the move, he'd reduced it all down to a bookshelf of favorites which he took with him, the clothes he needed, a dozen photos, and maybe a box of incidentals. I've often thought how much easier it made it on his sons and daughter—and how, when the time soon comes, they can simply grieve for their father and not have to deal with the aftermath of his passing.

We can't all do this, of course, because we don't have what amounts to a warning of impending end, and so lack the time to neaten up. But I'm going to try and reduce my life's accumulation a bit more each year.

But enough of such matters! I shouldn't be envious of your woodpeckers (though I am!) seeing as how I'm so blessed. This morning alone, I've had the following species at my feeders or hammering up and down a nearby tree: downy, hairy, red-breasted, and a spectacular pileated (crow-size and a daily visitor); also a yellow-shafted flicker. And this is usually the daily woodpecker line-up. Plus there are a couple more I hope to see hereabouts during the year…if I'm lucky.

Take care.

Bella said...

I wonder if the Heron you had visit was tapping on the door because of its reflection? Here I have a lone, misplaced and wild guineafowl who persistently would jump on my car in the garage and tap on the back window. It happened at specific times each day...after awhile I realised that the sun was reflecting in the back window which enabled the bird to see its reflection, and thus the tapping on the window. Through my human eyes, a bit sad...although later on, I noticed it was absent from wandering my backyard only to discover it hidden under a hedge. Was it dying - no worse perhaps, it had over the course of a couple of months passed about 20 eggs and here it was fiercely sitting on its eggs, eggs that would never hatch...it sat on the eggs for a couple of months until the neighbour destroyed the probably foul eggs...the cycle continued.

I too carry the knowledge of the lack of pure joy in my parents lives - the horrors my father endured as a young man in occupied Holland, eventually escaping post-war torments to live in a faraway place...the subsequent tragedies and losses...it creates a feeling of guilt and responsibility in the child that can insiduously destroy your own ability to experience joy. Only now do I challenge my thoughts - it is only a perspective of a child towards its parents..it is probably something our ancestors did, as a way of revering life and paying respect to our parents, but we must not let it overtake us...it is only one chapter in the very rich narrative of our parents lives. All said, I probably will still have times of indulging in moments of grief and sorry about their lives.

Phreerunner said...

A nice entry, SW, and thanks for the ref back to the young heron that I hadn't seen before.
Curious, that lack of sparrows. Yesterday's walk down the main road to Timperley village had me pausing at length to study the sparrows chattering away to each other in the security of the hawthorn hedges that will soon be showing the tinges of green that are some of the first indications that spring is on its way. There is certainly no shortage of sparrows here!

Bella said...

Since you guys are talking alot about birds (many I haven't heard of)...I am reminded of the male bowerbird here in Australia who collect and hoard useless pieces of junk, (preferring blue coloured items) and keeps busy continually re-arranging the junk until it forms a bower.
SW, can you put some bits and pieces in a box or garage and deal with it later? I found it really hard to go through my mother's things (she was a child of the depression era too, so kept everything)...I just couldn't look at these things knowing that there was no reason probably to keep any of it...some things I just put in boxes and over the years I do a stocktake and discard if necessary....

I think what makes it hard is knowing how long they have kept the items, safe and carefully, and that to discard too quickly wouldn't be justice or proportional.

I'm rambling and probably not making sense and maybe not helping...just if you can't process the stuff now, its okay to put some things aside until you can...


The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, one and all, for such long and thoughtful comments. Sorry I haven't replied before now, but I've been away at my father's house again, would you believe.

Yes, I'm giving it a rest now, Bella. I had to get on with things over the last few weeks because I had some free time - and I'm going to be very busy work-wise soon. I've sorted out a lot of the junk, and some of the furniture, pictures and stuff will be going to auction soon. I did actually find it an almost pleasurable task at times, cathartic even, if that doesn't sound strange. (Though obviously lots of mixed emotions churning about in there.) I've actually been dying to sort things out for a while - but of course he wouldn't let me, and quite right too. That was his right.