Woken again by the dawn chorus, I sleepily consider petitioning for a delay in their morning-song, pull the duvet over my head before surrendering to the inevitable and sitting up. Once awake, I am torn between remaining in bed – snug as a bug – or risking the cold air and rough floorboards in the hopes of glimpsing the woodpecker. I have seen her now twice – missing the male’s distinctive red cap, but bright and bold in colouring as she is shy in her habits. She comes early in the morning, is quick to start and to take flight, and does not return once frightened. I text Mum in her bedroom – ‘Woodpecker on bird feeder!’ I will never stop being excited by this.
Yesterday was the spring equinox. Today, the day will last longer than the night. Amidst the chaos of renovation and housework, dust and duties and the everyday business of life, I watch the seasons turn.
I sit on the windowsill upstairs, facing the back garden, perched between the corded telephone and a precarious pile of boxed dust guards, books and a shoebox containing heaven knows what. It is not exactly comfortable – my bum is numb after ten minutes and my bare feet are uncomfortably chilly – but I have hot coffee and a window from which I may watch the world go by. And it does – this little part of the world, and its feathered inhabitants.
Sparrows – house or tree – are invisible almost, clustered on the ground by the feeders then rising suddenly in a whirr and a whirl. Blue tits change direction midflight, angels pirouetting on the head of a pin, their thought processes too swift to follow. A blackbird chases away a song thrush with what seems like unnecessary zeal, his tail flicking up abruptly like an exclamation mark – out! out!
Two collared doves are conducting an examination of the dovecote, and we hope they will choose to settle here. It is, we agree, a good neighbourhood. While the smaller birds chirrup, chatter, tweet and proclaim, the larger wood pigeons coo reassuringly and settle comfortably into their chests. When B and I were children, we used to imitate their call – a little more original than an owl cry – but I now reflect that our secret signal may not have been entirely unsuspected by the adults.
A flash of goldfinch catches my eye, then another – a quick pursuit, but impossible to tell whether territory or coquetry is the goal. One lands on the washing line, using its spotted tail to balance, then flitting away. Despite their jewel-like vibrancy they can be hard to spot.
The first greenfinch of the year alights at the bird table without ceremony, masked like a bandit, the bird version of Zorro. We have a calendar beside the window where we write down bird sightings and Mum compares them to the year before. I note down greenfinch, add great spotted woodpecker.
I should be moving by now – I need to find my purse, to get dressed; I have a train to catch. I begin to unfurl, then pause to watch a robin darting in and out of one of the bird boxes we put up last spring. It is a bright, sunny, blowy day. All around me are busy with the season.