Discover more from Severnland
The kestrel that haunts the patch of ash and hawthorn is a cartoon kestrel. He's not like the real thing, more a child's drawing of a falcon.
I'm pretty sure he's the offspring of a real kestrel that hovers and stalks in the same area and that he was born last year. His head is big and round, as are his eyes. They sit in dark patches that give him a surprised, comic look. He is gawky; a falcon with all the edges rounded off. Despite all this, he's a handsome lad though, a perfect thing. His russet back and black tipped, fanned tail all pristine. When his feathers ruffle in the breeze they do so with pedigree. Even if his wide eyes suggest that he may have just farted.
Today is the third day in a row I have had the honour of his jittery presence. His hunting is no doubt disturbed by me walking past, but he seems to be generally impatient, flapping from tree to tree between short bursts of intense focus. In these moments I can get quite close without him noticing. When he does he moves on quickly, but never too far away. His rotund appearance suggests he’s learning his trade well.
This last week I've started taking food for the birds. I'm in the final flourish of applying too many layers of paint and varnish to an over-engineered homemade bird table, and in my eagerness to just be done I've started taking some RSPB table seed and slices of bread out with me on morning walks. The crows love the bread – the seed I scatter like a Biblical metaphor. I don't know what exactly eats it but it gets eaten. I scatter it close to cover for the wrens, finches and tits but it’s probably the squirrels that fill their bellies fullest.
As soon as I make the throwing-bread motion the crows come quickly. They come together and in an orderly enough fashion. They are steadfastly polite, the Dark Lord's own civil service. Occasionally fights break out which I have to nip in the bud by withholding bread. I am aware this is all a bit Brenda Fricker in Home Alone 2, but until the table gets its last coat of varnish, I'm happy to play the sad-eyed pigeon lady with my daily bread and sunflower seeds.
This week has been one of small rewards: Even casual observations of the natural world suggest patterns. A pair of bullfinches in one particular bush on a less-beaten path, the comic kestrel in his ash and song thrushes at the tops of trees, facing the sun and singing it up into the sky. I sense that like me, they can feel the sap rising and spring a-coming in. The thrushes throw their show-stopping variants into the morning air, but all the birds have their part to sing.
The Birds in the Spring comes to mind, one of only a handful of traditional songs I'm aware of that celebrate nature for its own sake, and in this case birds specifically. On mornings like this, as the hillside rings with song I am dead certain of the last three sweetly observed lines:
And when you're growing old you will have this to say,
That you never heard so sweet, you never heard so sweet,
You never heard so sweet as the birds on the spray!
From The Birds in the Spring as sung by Bob and Ron Copper