For the birds

I appreciate that this may not be the most original blog piece of the past year, but wow, I am amazed by the extent to which I have been ignorant of the wonder of bird life up until now!

The moment of dawning realisation? A recent visit to Hyde Park. A socially distanced stroll around the Serpentine took us round the corner to see a small crowd of people gathered around a particular section of fence, under some nondescript looking trees.

Obviously the “2 metre” alarm bells were ringing but curiosity is hard to defeat so I gingerly headed towards the outside edge of the group. Please note, I stayed distant! 

Anyway, drawing the crowd was a small, strikingly green, flock of ring-necked parakeets. Now this is not a news story in itself. Wander around almost any park in London and you’re likely to hear their noisy squawks. 

What was different this time? The parakeets were flying down from the trees to nibble at halved apples clasped by onlookers, sitting on kids’ wrists as they held out gloved hands full of birdseed.

Did you know that ring-necked parakeets are the UK’s only naturalised parrot? They measure around 40cms in length and personally, I find them adorable. Vibrant green, little curved beak, they have a very cheeky expression. I know I am anthropomorphising the feathery creatures but honestly, they are a breath of fresh air on a grey, suburban day!

We used to find parakeets bobbing along the railing of our balcony. That was until the downstairs neighbour installed a plastic hawk. I do understand, they did used to bear the unfortunate brunt of the visits.

Following the trip to Hyde Park we tried to lure the parakeets back with a big chunk of apple cable-tied to the handrail. As yet, no luck!

Just before and during the first lockdown we put some effort into cheering up our balcony. Got some herbs and potted plants, filled up the battered bird feeder… We were obviously not alone in this thought given the queue at the garden centre! 

We live near a busy road and not far from a flight path. Apparently both birds and humans benefited from the “silent spring” of lockdown, with birds upping “the quality of their songs”. The peace and obligatory time at home certainly made me pay more attention to the visitors to the bird feeder. 

We noticed wrens and blue tits… this is quite an achievement as I never even knew the names of these birds before looking them up this summer. While torturous for the cat, it has become a morning ritual to look and see how many of these tiny birds flit to and from the bird food.

I’m now paying much more attention to our feathered friends. A wagtail at the train station, a cormorant on the river. For some reason I find much more enjoyment in seeing these creatures once I know what they’re called. Does it build more of a connection?

We have a wetland centre not so far away, apparently there are waders and wintering ducks. Maybe next year is the year I go pro!

Rewild your morning: Free Birdsong Radio app from the RSPB celebrates glorious UK birdlife.

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