4

April


Until a few years ago my whole life had been bound up as much with animals as humans. I had to learn, very quickly, the difference between 'sense' and sentiment. Particularly, the suffering of a sick animal or bird because you had to 'divine' what was wrong with them, then, if terminal or they were suffering badly, to take the awful decision.

In the war, we bred Jack Russell terriers (much in demand as 'ratters' by local councils). A lovely bitch, Trixie, caught distemper, no cure, no vets, no anti-biotics. My father and I sat with her, both of us in tears, as she died in pain. Decades later, my beloved German Shepherd lost the use of his back legs. I could not make the phone call, left it to my husband. The vet arrived – this fierce-looking dog was an absolute coward, nearly needed a sedative to have his claws trimmed. He managed a growl as the vet entered our conservatory. Then I sat on a stool, the dog's head on my lap, stroking his head and soaking his fur with my tears as he quietly and peacefully departed this life. What a relief, in comparison with poor Trixie.

But this is about birds, rising from Mary's blog on pigeons. I adore birds. My father's business was the importing of exotic birds for sale to bird 'fanciers' and zoos. I always had a pet. Photos exist of me hugging toucans, as a teenager in the 'Evening News' with an African Grey Parrot (I was stewarding at the National Cage Birds show, where my father was judging).

In the huge walk-in aviary at Singapore Bird Zoo an amazed grand-son watched parakeets descend on my arms and shoulders. In India, Indonesia and Australia I was blown away at seeing birds in the wild which I have only ever seen in cages and aviaries.

Mary's description of her bird feeders, and coping with gluttonous wood-pigeons was poignant. In our first house here, in our lovely garden, I had a bird 'restaurant'. A bird 'house', then wires strung from wall to tree with hanging nut dispensers and fat balls. One day, during my garden 'opening', a small boy with his mother stood transfixed. The birds had no fear. The boy said 'Maman, les oiseaux', He had never seen birds so close. People went mad with their cameras. We have a brief video of the 'jumping sparrow'. Stupid creature forgot he could fly, and from a step he would 'jump' at a fat ball. It would move away, then come back and clout him like one of those demolition balls. We had a large, solid laurel bush which served as a sparrow 'high rise'. All would be quiet, until a 'domestic', when crowds of quarrelsome sparrows would erupt. If I forgot to replenish their 'restaurant', and they could see us having lunch in the conservatory, an accusing row would line up on the ridge of the roof, and stare me into guiltily giving them their lunch too.

I gather bird-watching is now a big hobby. Son in the Alps saw a Goshawk and a black wood-pecker.

What have you seen?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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