Sunday, 27 May 2018

And then there was Egg

So, after all the anticipation, all that’s left is a few twigs and one egg. It was hard, that moment when the birds flew off.

I was lucky, in a way, that I was watching. I’d glanced across and noticed there was no bird on the nest - but that happened from time to time, for a minute or few, so I wasn’t particularly worried. 

But then both birds returned together. They perched beside their little egg and did a lot of head-cocking and bobbing, cooed a lot, and then flew off towards the distant hills. I’ve seen one of them since, come back just to check on the egg once or twice, but within hours it was clear that this nest has been abandoned. 

Who knows why? There are a thousand reasons why this egg didn’t hatch - and it’s far from uncommon. Collared doves (I now know) lay just a couple of eggs but have several clutches through the year. Unlike birds that lay many more eggs, they are quick to fly off and try again rather than persist with an egg that hangs around a bit. What this couple haven’t done is relay eggs in this nest.

Which is sensible. For this nest is in full sun for much of the day - and so has been fryingly hot over the past couple of weeks. The bird on the nest has sat with her beak open and a wobble in her throat, presumably the equivalent of a dog panting to keep itself cool. A chick exposed to that sun would risk serious dehydration. And when it rained, there was no protection at all.

I was saddened, of course. After the delight of the nest being built in the first place, I settled into life with Bird and looked forward to a chick. But I also knew that it was a stupid place for a bird to raise a brood.

And so I wish them well with a second clutch, wherever it is.

And I need to clear this gutter (not, of course, on my own - that would involve dangling over my balcony) - and, regrettably, put some sort of spiky thing in the balcony to deter any other birds nesting here. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Brief Bird update.

A brief Bird update.

She’s still sitting on her nest - she has coped with teeming rain and frying sun. But hasn’t given up.

I was determined not to give her a name. She is a wild creature, and I won’t treat her like a pet. 

But somehow she has become ‘Bird’. So each morning, as I glance across at her, I find myself saying, ‘Hello, Bird.’ A week ago her little head would pop up, eyes a-sparkle, and watch my every move. Now she barely stirs. We rub along together, she in her wild way and me in the shelter of man-made home. It feels like progress that she isn’t frightened of me.

But no chick yet. The internet tells me it should hatch in the next week or ten days. So what will I name the chick?

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Me and my lodger

As some of you know, I have a lodger. And, while I’m not one to just by appearances, this is what she looks like (she’s a collared dove):

This gutter is at my eye-line when I stand on my balcony. I can watch her from my sitting room. When she first moved in she seemed very aware if I moved around - her little head bobbed up and her eyes seemed more alert. But now she takes very little notice - and I don’t get closer than about eight feet.  
And she’s not alone:

As you can see, this is not the best-constructed nest. Not much more than a haphazard collection of twigs. And I watch as the male arrives with a long twig to add to the collection. There is much grateful head-bobbing as he hands it over. And off he goes.

Leaving her with a twig far to long for her to even turn it round easily so it can sit on top of the others. She shuffles, tries bashing on the wall beside her to break it up, and eventually bits of if fall off. If she had words, she’d be muttering to herself: ‘Bloody bird. Can’t even manage to find a twig the right length. Might has well have gone to IKEA and come home with the box, not opened it to find out which bits were missing ...’

And when he brought her another, she waited until he had flown away and dropped it over the side!

She doesn’t have words, of course. And I’ve watched Springwatch often enough to know that the chances of her clutch surviving is less than fifty per cent. She’s already down to one egg: one has rolled off the end of her gutter onto one below.

But that doesn’t stop me feeling fiercely protective of this little family. I can spend hours watching her, rearranging twigs, shifting on her nest and then poking beneath her chest to make sure the remaining egg is snug beneath her. So if I’m late posting blogs over the nest week or few, I’m probably on bird-duty!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Once a travel writer, always a travel writer?

You know me as a travel writer. Which is not unreasonable, given that most of my books are about my travels.

Will there be a book about my last trip to Nepal - no. Because it wasn’t a travelly sort of trip. It was a recuperative trip, a trip to take the space I needed to fill my head with something other than my house-move (and failed house-selling efforts) last year. It was the trip I needed. 

And because I don’t have to write a book about a trip if I don’t want to.

But ... surely I’m a travel writer. I travel and write about it - that’s what I do ...

I don’t see it like that - though I’m not sure I’ve challenged it before. I love travelling, and I love writing, and the two have melted together very happily. But that doesn’t mean the reason to travel is to write, nor is writing an excuse to travel. The two activities are independent of each other. If they overlap, that’s fine. And if they don’t, that’s fine too.

I’ve become know for the overlapping - when the writing and travelling come together. And yet the book I’m most proud of, the book that cost the most angst, the book that gave me most pleasure to write - is my novel, The Planter’s Daughter .

Why? Because I had to make it up. I had to do hours of research first, to make sure I got the factual bits right. But the rest of it I made up. (Well, I had the sketchiest outline, as it grew out of a vignette I came across in New Zealand. That gave me about four sentences. The rest I made up.)

Why am I telling you all this? Because my writing focus, at the moment, is firmly turned to fiction. That doesn’t mean I shall stop travelling, nor that I’ll stop blogging about travelling while I’m away. It simply means that I won’t travel with a view to writing a little book about it - unless, of course, something extraordinary happens (like a close encounter with a tiger ...)

So what is this novel I’m writing .. it’s such early days, I’ll keep that to myself for now.