Sunday, 6 April 2014

The spring is sprung, the grass is riz ...

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.


  1. They're all over here, Jo!!! 8 sparrows on the fat balls yesterday. Bluetits on the peanut feeder. Pair of robins and blackbirds drinking from the pond and eating bread. Sorry. Have asked them to shift over to yours...

    1. Thanks for the offer, Carol - but I think they'd make a bee-line for my lovely forest and spurn my denuded garden!

  2. Possibly they have discovered a taste for urban living because there seem to be a lot around here too, including some calls I have not heard before. Saw a green parakeet the other day, an escapee from South London I think.

    1. Sounds like urban gardens aren't supervised by red kites and sparrowhawks!

  3. On this side of the channel I am seeing and hearing lots of birds too! I have some resident blue tits that delight in the nuts I put out for them and I've heard bird song in the mornings recently that sounds more like full bodied shouting matches than singing, but yes, they are not starving at all - nothing is! My little Zeeland garden is flourishing as it never has and my last year's annuals are coming back for another round. Amazing. I expect yours are just sufficiently well fed and happy in the woods without the extras.

  4. An excellent mantra, sometimes friends need to eat at a different table too. We have fewer birds visiting lately. We put it down to our cats making their presence known but I'd rather it was because the nearby spinney is full of delicious grubs etc.

    1. Thanks for spotting that little sentence at the end, Ros - I spent hours over that!!

  5. Pigeons!!!!! I still have my robins,for now until they too fly away to a different table in another country. I love how you said people have to do that too it really made me think.