The spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where
The birdies is?
(Attributed to Ogden Nash, to Spike Milligan, and to Anon!)
My mother used to recite this every year - it was a sort of annual ridiculousness. And irrelevant, really, as we had plenty of sparrows and starlings in our garden nibbling on the goodies she put out for them. (Those that weren't eaten by my brother, that is - who often refused his breakfast only to be found eating bread put out for the birds. A long-ago story.)
I, too, have a bird feeder. And I live near a forest, so my garden should be full of them. In the past, as well as the usual blackbirds, robins and tits, I've had nuthatches and woodpeckers. Plus some I don't recognise. It's one of life's pleasures, standing by my back door and watching birds squabble.
So where are they all? My garden, this April, is unnaturally quiet. The nuts grow soggy for lack of attention. The seeds fall to the ground and wait for passing pigeons.
I blame the mayhem out there over the winter - the fallen tree and decimated shrubs. It was a mess. It's cleared now but still looks a bit surprised. Maybe the birds haven't forgiven me for allowing their hiding places to disintegrate like that.
But yesterday I learned of another reason. For everyone around me is complaining that the birds have abandoned them - so it's not just me. It seems the birds are all staying in the forest. Which, when you think about it, is where they should be - and where, after our mild winter, there is plenty of food. Insects already out and about. Berries unscarred by late frosts.
They've no need to venture into gardens where there is a risk of cats, or in full view of the red kites and sparrowhawks. Far better to hide in the forest than take a risk like that.
I get that - I miss them, of course, and there's a corner of me that still feels a twinge of abandonment. My bird food isn't good enough, that sort of thing.
But the birds are doing what they need to do. They'll feed their babies in greater safety.
Last week the woman who runs my Life Writing group left to take a sabbatical. She, too, is doing what she needs to do. I wish her well, too.
Sometimes, however much we may prepare a feast, birds (and people) need to eat at a different table.