The Trust of Birds

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THERE’S NOT MUCH THAT I REQUIRE IN LIFE. Don’t need a fancy car. Don’t need a big bank balance. Don’t need any friends (though a handful of genuine trustworthy bosom-buddies is always cool). Don’t even need a wyfe (though a sane, sorted, “partner-in-cryme” would be helpful, though not essential 😉). Don’t need anything much really. An honest guitar (currently a no-bling Boucher) and a reliable laptop (currently a solid Surface Book 2) are all I kindof “need”. But one thing that I have ALWAYS wanted but which has ALWAYS eluded me is the trust of wild birds.

I’ve made friends with all sorts of wild creatures in my time —jumping spiders, wild horses, squirrels, certain women(!), a savage dog which no one else could tame, and many more — but no matter how much I try and reassure birds, they always retain their ferality and keep their distance. (NB: I’m not talking about pigeons in the park or budgerigars in the living-room!) If I work hard on it, I can sometimes get the distance to become less. But there is always some distance. I plead with them and offer them references testifying to my peaceful nature and repugnance towards Thrush Pâté (which I was once offered in a French restaurant near Perpignan!). But all to no avail. I reluctantly have to accept that I am no Francis of Assisi! 😢

However, I did make a bit of headway yesterday with a Spotted Flycatcher, which must have just arrived with the warm weather in its migration from South Africa. I noticed it perched nervously on a twig with a beakful of material for a nest, while eyeing me up to see if I am hostile (see photo, left, above). It was watching me to see if I would go away so it could carry on with the job, as they obviously do not like to give away the location to potential predators. (I say “it” because I was not entirely sure whether it was the male or female as both genders can engage in nest-building, though apparently with Spotted Flycatchers it is the female who does most of the work!). Only thing is… it is building the nest on the front of the mountain cabin in which I’m currently staying, right above the light next to my front door! So, we share real estate and it would have to get used to me. As I hunkered down nearby with my camera, the bird came closer and closer to the semi-constructed nest. I kept issuing verbal assurances about my peace-loving pedigree and maybe I convinced it as, eventually (after about 10 minutes of this dance, with it coming nearer then going away a bit, then coming even nearer still), it finally got on the nest to continue construction — all the time watching me with its beady eye (see photo, right, above).

When I got up this morning, I went to look at the nest for a while and it seemed deserted. I wondered if my presence the day before had made it abandon the enterprise (which often happens if the birds suspect a problem). Later today, I saw it again engage in its nest-building and was relieved. Usually, it is the same birds which nest in the same place year-on-year. However, in the UK, there has been an 86% decline in the breeding of Spotted Flycatchers in the 40 years after 1967. Similarly, across the whole of Europe, numbers have fallen by 59% since 1980. On the British Trust for Ornithology website, the Spotted Flycatcher has the conservation status of RED. So I am very pleased to encourage rather than discourage, by my presence, this pair of breeders. I await with interest the laying of eggs and hatching. 😍.

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