Watching Life And Death

There’s not a huge amount of inspiration to be found on a ‘turbo-trainer’, and snow’s been keeping me off the bike for a few days. (I suspect if I never saw another snow flake I’d be quite happy about it.)

What is interesting to watch is what goes on outside the window in harsher weather – the bird life.

Birds in the snow

‘This too must pass’

At the various feeders and bird tables:

  • There’s one super-aggressive male Blackbird who’s willing to have a go at almost anything else – the other two male Blackbirds who are visiting, and any other nearby smaller bird.
  • The plumped-up female Blackbird more-or-less does her own thing but studiously avoids the males.
  • There are a few Starlings who descend as a group whenever there’s any fresh food that’s not mixed grain out. These aren’t afraid of the aggressive Blackbird – in fact the reverse is true, even though Starlings are smaller.
  • Unusually, I’ve had two Jays visiting simultaneously, but they’ll only barely tolerate each other and most of the other birds flee when they arrive. Any that stay keep their distance.
  • Magpies don’t tolerate anything else, and, as with the Jays, nothing else wants to be anywhere near them.
  • The Collared Doves have just kept on doing what they always do: hanging around, seemingly a tad gormless but always attentive, and carefully picking their time to feed.
  • There’s one Pied Wagtail who just does what he or she wants, neatly side-stepping the other birds as necessary and – it appears – getting the food it wants and needs.
  • The Blue Tits and Great Tits are like the Wagtail – canny feeders who can look after themselves.
  • There are pair of Bullfinches, relatively recent visitors, and they also seem self-contained, not fussed by any of the other birds except, occasionally, the Greenfinches who’ll have a bad-tempered go at them if they’re close enough.
  • There are more Wood Pigeons than normal – which is to be expected as they come in to the suburbs looking for food.
  • The solo Song Thrush I’ve seen is, I guess, doing the same as the Wood Pigeons, but he or she’s often chased-off by the stroppy Blackbird.
  • There are two Robins who fight as much as they feed but only seem interested in each other.
  • Greenfinches appear as contentedly greedy once they’ve settled on the feeders as they are all year round. They’ll squabble amongst themselves but, seemingly, without consequence.

And all of the ‘interest’ I’m seeing outside my window, one way or another, is about survival – no more and no less.

If I were describing starving humans fighting for scraps there would be an outcry. The same would be true if I were talking about domesticated mammals that people feel some affinity with, dogs perhaps.

Watching birds struggling to live though, that’s OK. I don’t think that I’m putting food out makes it any better or changes anything. They’re still struggling. As always, everything is relative.