Tuesday, 21 June 2011

"Their Tiny Racing Hearts..."

A couple of birdspreads from recent sketchbooks...

Elbow have long been among my favourite current groups. But I like them even more since those songs about birds on their last album.

Bird activity is at it’s annual peak here. My garden sounds like a school playground with squadrons of sparrows and tits and finches and blackbirds and woodpeckers and crows whooping and swooping from bush to tree to rooftop to birdtable. When I wander out in the morning with their food I feel like I’m stepping into some extraordinary Disney fantasy.

In my studio fledgling swallows are circling over my head shepherded with shrill squeaks and squawks from mum and dad. I love it when they’re in residence. This year they arrived back from Africa on exactly the same day as last year. I know this because I’ve started to log things like this (my excite-o-meter is calibrated to a very low threshold these days). They sit on a perch and talk to each other for ages - I feel like an eavesdropper - a complicated series of chirrups often ending with that decaying ‘chiiiirrrrrrrrr’. Noone can tell me they aren’t having conversations.

Birds remain so fascinating because we still know so little about them. How do they find their way from South Africa to my garage/studio every year on the same day? (I’ve got friends that can’t find their way from Wanstead to here). Do they follow the sun and the stars? Or is it the pull of magnetic fields? There are lots of theories, lots of ‘may’, ‘might’ and ‘perhaps’ but no-one seems to know properly.

Anyway, here’s a fresh face that flew in last week. A nondescript little brown bird - I couldn’t quite place him - not a dunnock, not a whitethroat. I reached for my bird book and was delighted to identify him as a nightingale. He didn’t sing but he seemed a spirited little fellow who only reluctantly let me give him a hand to get back to the great outdoors.

“...what we gonna do with you?... same tail every time....


  1. Oh, beautiful! Birds just make my heart sing and I could get very gushing... I won't here (but may have to at some point on my own pages!) They just have that 'thing' about them. Great to read this and to see your lovely pics (espec. your amazing nightingale).

  2. Thank you C. Completely agree with you about birds. Something quite magical about them. One bird I'm always looking for is a cuckoo. Still sometimes hear them round these parts but so far never knowingly seen one (hasten to add I'm not a twitcher or even a tweeter and don't have a big green telescope). Look forward to reading about your own avian adventures!

  3. I've not seen a cuckoo either, sometimes think I can hear one here in LM but then it often turns out to be the first two notes of a distant collared dove! I'm no twitcher/tweeter either, whilst excited to see a species I might not have before, it's really the everyday stuff of everyday birds' lives I find so compelling. Seen through naked eyes, or occasionally the grubby cheap binoculars on the kitchen window if I want to know what on earth that dunnock is doing with that leaf etc. etc. ! Must be so special to have your swallows in summer residence...aww.. (but I said I wouldn't gush..!)

  4. PS The dunnock was mock-fighting with the leaf, btw! It was brown and curled and looked like another dunnock. Just in case you were interested! (sorry)

  5. Ah.. the mighty dunnock. A very underrated bird I feel. Being mistaken for an old leaf is the typical sort of ignominy that would befall one.

    "LM" eh? curiouser and curiouser...

  6. So nice to hear the dunnock described as 'mighty' rather than its usual 'lowly' tag! (Maybe you know 'LM'? - not exactly 'LA' - more 'village of antique shops' than 'city of angels'..!) Sorry to dominate your comments board, I must get off and write another post of my own at some point!

  7. That's alright - I think everyone has deserted the place anyway. Fickle bunch these web surfers, don't post for a month and they're all off to some other more exciting blog. No loyalty these days!

    Yes I know 'LM'. Nice place.

  8. I love the sketches & the colours! Do their tiny hearts race because of the carrion in the corner?

  9. Thanks Robe. Well spotted! There's a real romantic lyricism about birds, but the cynic in me can't resist sneaking in a little dark realism!