Friday, July 31, 2009


One from the ‘I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen
it with my own eyes’ logbook. We've been in the habit
this winter of putting out bread for the birds in the back
yard. It brings mostly sparrows but also starlings,
blackbirds, the occasional thrush, and some of those
lime-coloured little ones, finches, are they? Knowing
what’s coming most days the sparrows have taken to
gathering in the trees as soon as they hear a likely noise
from the kitchen, and sometimes making passes over
the feeding ground before the food’s even there. It
always reminds me of that scene in Close Encounters of
Third Kind where the swarm of harbinger spacecraft
swoop and dive over the landing ground before the
mother ship descends.

This morning the sparrows were moving in on the crumbs
when a gang of starlings hit the ground like paratroops
and started strutting about, as they do, tossing the food
around and behaving, frankly, as if they owned the place.
A blackbird arrived almost immediately and set about
seeing the starlings off, driving them away one by one, by
charging at them. Just the starlings; not the sparrows.
Now of course I’m being anthropomorphic, but I could
have sworn that the blackbird was protecting the sparrows
so that they could get more of the food for themselves. It
didn’t seem very interested in feeding itself—it patrolled
the perimeter of this al-fresco breakfast while the starlings
stayed in the branches above. Yet when it flew up and out
of my sight, as I watched through the french doors, the
starlings did not return. I went outside and realized that the
blackbird was up on the roof, maintaining its watch on the
scene. When more starlings descended a few minutes later
it zoomed in like a Lancaster on a bombing run and blew
them away. I was so impressed, I put more bread out. The
sparrows dined well today.

1 comment:

Pdogge said...

The wee limey ones likely to be waxeyes and surprised about the starlings. The problem we have always had is from indian Mynas. Horrible bloody bullying birds.Here's a trick if you want, get a couple of pine cones, tie a string on, smear peanut butter on and dust with bird seed. Hang up in a tree and watch the waxeyes arrive. Great stuff if you have small grandchildren and the like! Finches are about the same size as sparrows but have a more variegated feathering and oftenwith a whitish ring arounnd their necks. Keep on writing, always enjoyed your stuff.