Friday, 25 January 2013

Letters, emails and birds

Any email or letter that Marcia receives containing words such as, “I have never written to an author before but . . .” is, of course, a huge compliment. It is while she is writing that they are most important. I suspect that all novelists fall into one of two extremes: pretty unconfident or manically overconfident. I have yet to meet one who fits nicely in the middle – unlike us hacks who are only too happy to graze there (which is why we write such rubbishy novels when we are silly enough to try). All of which is a rather long-winded way of saying thank you to all of you who, without even knowing you are doing it, are – by keeping Marcia's confidence up there somewhere – making a very important contribution to “the next book”.

Those who were following my blogs before we moved will know that we used to get huge numbers birds in the “kitchen garden”. Here things are different. At any one time there are probably no more than four birds to be seen but we have a surprisingly large number of species dropping in and out.

We think the reason is this: over there we were the only “feeding station” for quite a distance and so brought in all the birds in the locality. Here we are one among many for most of our neighbours also put out feed. The result is that we have become just one of the stopping points on what we think is a regular patrol that the birds make around the neighbourhood. Because our kitchen and sitting room are on the first floor, we are level with the trees and so see species on a daily basis that we rarely saw before.

One such is a pair of blackcaps. Only the male has a black head, the mate's is rusty red. Nevertheless she is a charming bird, as you can see. I have yet to take a decent portrait of the male but will share it when that happens.

Then, and this was a great surprise, we discovered that we are on the feeding trail of two small flocks: goldfinches (above) and our old friends the long-tailed tits. Another daily visitor (or possibly visitors – we have only seen one at a time) is a goldcrest. These are even smaller than the wrens (also regular visitors) but a different shape being far less chubby.

The big problem is that these are so often either perching in the foliage or on some point where they are silhouetted against the sky – in both cases taking their portraits is not that easy. What I really want are birds like this collar dove who are willing to sit for a moment on the balcony handrail while I fumble around, find a camera and take a few photographs.

The birds that are really driving me insane are the jackdaws. They get up to the most fantastic (and funny) pranks but usually when I am without a camera as I am walking back from the shops. Then, as soon as I am ready for them, they fly away into the blue yonder and leave me getting bored and very cold.

I rather liked these two flying to their roost as the sun was setting.  Still, they will have to start building their nests soon and then I might have a better chance – or not, of course. We shall have to wait and see.