It’s been a funny year for birds. The appalling weather in March and April played havoc with the incoming migrant communities, particularly our returning colony of sand martins, whose holes among the sandy dunes have remained empty this season. House martins arrived very late, but seem to have done well in raising their families at Bamburgh links, though there are fewer occupied nests than in previous years. Yesterday I watched the swallows darting around and about in a big congregation, as is their wont when thoughts of returning south begin to dominate their thoughts. Tomorrow is the beginning of autumn in meteorological terms, and it can’t be that long until they leave us – and our garden birds – once more to our own devices.
Perhaps because the beginning of the breeding season was so disrupted, we have inclined even more acutely to our own homely creatures, taking delight in the sparrow families at front and back of the building, nesting in the martins’ boxes and under the eaves of next door’s roof, successfully rearing at least two broods apiece. We have attended to their family lives at every stage, and been privileged to be introduced to the little ones once they were big enough to fly down and partake of the food on offer, rain or shine. Parent and child; blackbird, blue tit and thrush; and the little robin whose mother brought along so carefully, to show him where he would always be welcome, as his life began. Now fending for himself, and beginning to produce his beautiful red breast, he is emerging from his rather unkempt babyhood into the independent yet companionable creature which makes the robin most loved of British birds.
Born in the lovely nest concealed by maple and holly behind our shed,several times a day he checks out the meal worm supply, which is regularly replenished, both in the little metal dish on the boiler cover and scattered widely across the grass. Intelligent individuality arms him with the courage to forage when others are more cautious. Alone of his kind, his real breastplate is a growing sense of self among a garden full of chattering sparrows and shrieking starlings; the confidence to stand his ground, when others flee, and thus to be rewarded with that extra portion which makes all the difference to a day’s provision. Bless you, little soul, and thank you for trusting your parents to our care. We are with you all the way.