Friday, January 23, 2009

The alternative universe at The Sidings

There is a whole other world that plays out its lives in our garden during the day when we are not there.

It was raining on and off for most of the morning, but by 11:30 the clouds had cleared, the sun had come out and it had turned into a lovely day. I was in the kitchen, idly drinking a cup of tea, gazing out the window and watching two pairs of goldfinches arguing over who could eat the niger seeds from the hanging feeder. They're always arguing, those four. There is, in fact, room for all of them, but the first pair isn't having any of that. It's their niger feeder and no upstart goldfinches are going to share it with them, oh no, no, no.

A blackbird glided in, onto the little lawn by the fish pond. And suddenly up flew a flock of about a dozen goldfinches, which had been doing something down on the grass. I had had no idea they were there - the dead fronds of the fern were blocking my view. Pause to ponder what goldfinches might be doing in a little flock down on the ground. And to admire them. Goldfinches are very pretty little birds and I haven’t seen so many all together before.

As well as them, there were sparrows and dunnocks and the two collared doves doing their usual thing. There was a robin bouncing around by the pond and a blue tit chewing on the fat balls.

Suddenly, there was a kerfuffle and all the birds flew away. Look. There's Marlo coming up the path. Mind you - he looks unusually interested in the birds. He's not normally bothered by them much. Well, he enjoys watching them but I've never seen him looks as though he were minded to hunt them. And, I had thought that Marlo was asleep in the dining room. Quick look in the dining room. And there he as, sound asleep. Aha – a Marlo clone! I picked up the original and took him to the window. He was distinctly unimpressed at the presence of a Marlo clone in *his* garden, shot out through the cat flap and escorted the alien invader off the premises.

The birds returned.

A little later I went out and cut the dead fronds from the fern so I could actually see the patch of lawn. And discovered that the arguing goldfinches are clearly shaking the seed feeder and there is a small mountain of niger seeds on the grass which the little flock was enjoying. As the afternoon progressed the goldfinches came and went, starlings came and went. The robin and the sparrows and the dunnocks didn’t go anywhere very far – I think the sparrows live in our little holly bush. At least, they do during the day. The seagulls that overwinter on the sewage farm and the wetlands flew over and about. And I think they must all do this on most days – everybody knows where everything is!

In the meantime, I made myself useful and finally got around to making the marmalade I had started preparing on Saturday. It’s sat in 5 jars in the kitchen now, awaiting labels.

And then I came to work. Was a bit of a struggle dragging myself away from sunny Tupton and all the birds making merry in what they clearly think of as their dining room. However, it doesn’t tend to go down well if you randomly fail to show up for work. And even less well if it’s an evening shift you fail to show up for!

I hope all these birds are around over the weekend. And I really, really hope the long tailed tits are there (they weren’t today). It’s the RSPB bird count weekend and I so long to be able to put goldfinches and long tailed tits onto my tally (You have to count the numbers of different birds you see together in your garden for one hour on either day. It’s kind of a nationwide bird census)

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