And Your Bird Can Sing


Slightly Bemused writes:

I try to get up each morning to see the sunrise. Admittedly, I pretty much fall back into bed afterwards and sleep until a much more sensible hour. But sunrise is wonderful, even when the sky is clothed with cloud. The brightening of the day brings a joy.

And the chorus of birdsong to welcome it is wonderful.

Except for the robins. There are two who live in my garden, among the briars and trees. One fellow likes to come and visit me whenever I do work out there.Occasionally he will do the typical and sit on my garden fork handle and sing. I used think it was lovely.

But yesterday I saw him face off against a Goldtit (there is a colony of them among the briars too) and Mr Robin was not being very nice. I suppose at this time of year food is getting more scarce, and they would be after similar grub, but the aggression of the little red breasted bird was surprising to me.

I wonder if part of that is my fault? Every year I put out seed feeders and later fat balls for the little birds. The crows and I have a different understanding, and they leave the seeders alone.

But I have been late this year. I normally wait until the fruit is gone from the brambles, but bathroom upset has had my mind elsewhere. Never mind, this afternoon will see some new seed in the garden.

It has been my joy to travel the world a little, and watch the sun rise over many different scenes, and listen to the birds welcome the day. Something that surprised me was to hear that birds have different accents wherever you go. And in some of those places they perform like an orchestra in the morning.

They are a little quieter in the evening, as they settle to their beds. Sunset can be just as wonderful, but where sunrise signals the start of a new day, sunset is the time to rest.

But I think the best sunset I ever saw was with a young lady with whom I was quite taken. We drove north from Nairobi towards Naivasha, and along the way she had me stop the car. We went over to the edge of the Rift Valley, and sat with our feet over the edge, at least a kilometer down, and watched the sun set. Beautiful colours, and birds singing around us. With a lovely lady tucked into my arm, I thought I was in heaven.

They have since built a viewing platform at that place, so no more legs dangling over the abyss!

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

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41 thoughts on “And Your Bird Can Sing

  1. Lilly

    We have our own Michael Harding! This got me thinking of sunsets I have enjoyed in faraway spots. I’d like to see the sun go down over the Grand Canyon in 2021.

  2. thefatlad

    Robins are fierce territorial regardless of what we do. Little scrotes, but also very intelligent little scrotes.
    My father in law has had robins turn up at the opening of the backdoor for years knowing well that he’s going to be out in the garden turning the soil over etc where they can chow down on various things.
    Last year, he had one that would eat mealworms from his hand.
    But I digress. They are scrotes and worse than that, they are scrotes with “shortman syndrome”

      1. Brother Barnabas

        are these the same ones who regard the requirement to wear a mask as a breach of their human rights ?

        1. Hector Rameriz

          My partners dad passed this year (unrelated to covid) a couple of days after the funeral, we were standing chatting at the front door before she set of to check in with her mum. A robin appeared and strutted around right next to us for a little bit. She got emotional obviously and if it gave her some comfort to think about her dad, I don’t see anything wrong with it.

          By the way, I’ve seen robins chase other little birds in flight.

          1. Slightly Bemused

            My deepest condolences to you and your partner! The loss of a a parent is not something small.

    1. ReproBertie

      Robins only live for about 2 years so their territories come up for grabs regularly.

      They’re also called a Robin Redbreast because there was no word for Orange in the English language (if you can even call it a language) until around the 16th century.

      1. millie loves leather

        I found out yesterday that the original word for orange, as Gaeilge, is buí dearg, which is lovely imo.

        1. ReproBertie

          I’ve not heard that one. We had flannbhuí for orange.

          flann is blood red and buí is yellow so flannbuí is a mix between blood red and yellow. Irish tends to spectrum colours rather than just label them. This means we get bán-dearg for pink (white-red) and bán-buí for cream (white-yellow).

          1. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

            oh nice tip, I love the way you think differently in different languages, it opens up new vistas in the mind and soul

          2. millie loves leather

            Oooh thanks for that. I’m only starting to dip my toe back into Irish but I really do enjoy learning about Irish words. That’s going on the Christmas list.

            I also listen to the Mother Foclóir podcast which has some really great episodes about this sort of thing, for anyone interested.

          3. ReproBertie

            If you haven’t already, you should add the Motherfoclóir book to the Christmas list. I’ve not read the sequel, Craic Baby, but if it’s as good as the first it’s definitely worth a look.

            Another for the list is “A History of Ireland in 100 words” which looks at the etymology of Irish words and how they reflect the changes to the country.

            Just be sure to get them from your local bookshop.

          4. millie loves leather

            Cheers for that RB. As someone who struggled with Irish in school, not helped by some piss poor teachers, I never thought I’d find myself wanting to get back into the language, so anything to encourage the newfound interest is welcome.

          5. Paulus

            Garry Bannister has a few foclóirs which are great for more modern idioms; ( some of which are tres dana).

    2. Clampers Outside

      My Mum is 80 now, and has a Robin feed from her hand too. Gives her great delight :)

      And because of that… I’ll have none o’ Slightly’s dissing of Robins! :)

  3. Janet, dreams of an alternate universe

    thanks for reminding me to get fat balls …and another bell for the cat :),
    the sun over the spaces in Africa is something else, it’s hard to understand the vastness, how far the eye can see, how small you are and the colours until you have been there, so thanks for the reminder of that too,
    my favourite sunrises are when you are sailing and up she comes in a cup of blue all around.

  4. Orno

    A goldtit? What’s that? Does he mean a goldfinch? Or perhaps at blue tit or a great tit?

    When a robin sings he’s basically telling everyone else to feck off, so yes they are very terrotorial and quite aggessive. Sounds lovely though.

    1. Slightly Bemused

      He is a Greattit, but given his lovely colour I call him a GoldTit :-)

      The finches live a few doors down, but pop over every so often

  5. Harry

    I have a seed feeder and a fat ball feeder hanging under the awnings of the shed but it doesn’t stop the magpies and grey crows from smashing into them to get some grub.

    Attracts a lot of blue tits which I enjoy. I love tits. I also bought a bird house to attract a Robin, which was the purpose of the whole feeding enterprise also, but no joy as yet.

    1. ReproBertie

      Robins aren’t big fans of feeders. They’re more likely to hop around under it picking up the scraps. Try a bird table or just do a bit of digging. Robins like nothing more than watching humans work.

      Peanut feeders will keep the blue tits happy but be of no real interest to the magpies and crows.

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