Sunday, 4 July 2010

Nesting garden birds and a heron

The pretty, pert little wren is one of my favourite garden birds. It normally nests close to the ground, being a ground feeder, and is very shy. As soon as you spot it, it is off. Never still enough to study, never slow enough to photograph. Perhaps that is part of its appeal. It is fleeting. Flitting. Imagine my surprise when I find one nesting under the old hay shelter.

Flung over a little used wooden ladder, a tatty nylon tarpaulin, no longer any use to cover bales of hay or the ancient mower, had been left crumpled and discarded. And, amazingly, the wren thought that its folds were the perfect place to build its nest.

This mossy little home of the Wren was only just visible and having seen her disappear in and out of it over a period of time, I can only hope that she managed to rear her brood. Thank goodness that everyone was warned or anyone of us could have, in a frenzy of tidiness, have yanked the tarpaulin down and thrown both it and its precious cargo in the bin or on the bonfire. Very fortunately we are prone to very few frenzied attacks of tidiness.

Last week I found a new born chick, featherless, eyes like giant goggles, lying dead on a garden step. How it got there so far from any nesting place I don’t know. A cuckoo chick would just have nudged it forcibly over the side of the nest. So perhaps the culprit was a predatory bird. A cat would have eaten it, tiny snack that it was. Anyway, it was a reminder that life is precious, often as cruel as it is beautiful.

But Friday, chopping down an overgrown laurel bush, we suddenly had to stop. There was a bird’s nest full of chicks! Yup, mirror images of one dead-on-the-step chick. So the laurel bush will have to stay looking rather mangled and lop-sided for the next month or so. And a blackbird was seen going to the bush later, so we hope that was Mom.

However, it’s not just in the countryside that unexpected birdlife (or death) appears. On a recent trip to the National Archives at Kew (marvellous place) I was on my way to the car park when I was stopped in my tracks. There, on the edge of the lake, in the urban environment of London, was a heron. I was delighted and whipped out my camera fully expecting it to take fright and wing it.

But no, unfazed by this crazy woman pointing her camera at him through the railings he stood his ground. She stood over him, she peered through the rails, she kneeled on the ground to take yet another photograph. Yet, he remained calm and composed, unmoving, as he watched the antics and camera posturing of a rural human female going through her recording ritual. Very excitable these country types.

Finally, the woman’s research companion (Best Beloved, who has never forgiven the heron’s brother for pinching his carp) said, COME ON! She had no alternative but to scurry off to catch her transport home to the counties. And the heron, sanguine, resigned, remained unmoving and unmoved. An elegant, not always loved, urbane member of the species known as large water birds. I was nearly as excited about seeing the heron as I was about what I unearthed at the archives for my book research!


1 comment:

Carla said...

Lovely story about the heron. They quite often seem to be completely un-bothered by human activity, perhaps because they know very well that humans rarely splash into the water to get within grabbing range so they know they are safe. Or perhaps because they are philosophers - they have that sort of look, somehow - and regard human agitation as beneath their notice :-)