I recently read The Urban Birder by David Lindo so I’ve had birds on the brain. Not that they’re ever far from it.
Back home I loved watching the birds in our garden, and despite not having a garden now I try as much as possible to pay attention to birds. These days my birding mainly takes the form of half snatched bird songs and the odd glimpse.
In Findings Kathleen Jamie talks about how birds enter her life at the peripheries:
Between the laundry and fetching the kids from school, that’s how birds enter my life. I listen. During a lull in the traffic, oyster catchers. In the school playground, sparrows chirp from the eaves.
That is how birds enter my life, at the edges.
In the morning as I clutch my cup of tea for warmth and watch the sunrise’s red light glowing on my lounge wall I listen to the sound of the birds singing in the trees that line the playing fields at the back of my house.
On my walk to work I pass through tree lined streets, but there is only one street where the traffic is quiet enough that I can listen out for birds. I snap out of my day dreaming and focus all my attention on the bird song around me.
Occasionally I do also see birds. I catch glimpses of them flitting between the trees at the back of the house. The other day I had the bedroom window open and I paused between folding t-shirts at the sound of a bird call. I looked out of the window to see a bird chasing another bird to a nearby tree. I couldn’t tell you what bird it was, but that doesn’t matter. It is the fact of having stopped and seen them at all that matters.
When I lived by the sea my mum would always ask me if I’d been down to the beach whenever we spoke. Weeks went by without a visit to the beach, but as she said, sometimes its enough just to know its there. It is enough just knowing the birds are there.
The other week as I was walking through the Jubilee Campus of the University of Nottingham, which contains a series of lakes, I saw a moorhen only a few feet from me pull a worm out of the soil, walk a few paces and then swallow the worm. I’ve never actually seen a bird eat a worm and was so excited I wanted to tell someone, though I wasn’t sure if the other people dotted around the lake would share my enthusiasm for worms. But it does go to show, if you tune in you start to see things.
This weekend I was in the city centre of Nottingham and I was reminded of another of my favourite bird quotes – this time from Barry Lopez – as I stopped to watch a flock of pigeons noisily flapping from one roof to another:
Birds tug at the mind and heart with a strange intensity… Their flight, even a burst of sparrows across a city plaza, pleases us.
Even pigeons flying across the grey city sky can force us to look up.