There was another batch of trainee swallows outside our window this morning, making use of a break in the rain and joining a pair of warblers happily gleaning insects in the huge fennel plant by our front door, the spotted flycatcher hawking for insects off the roof of the shed, and the wagtails stomping up and down the guttering – not to mention the usual chaffinches and great tits, a scruffy pack of sparrows that loiter in the village, a squadron of starlings that spend a peripatetic life among the farms between here and papershop village, the jackdaws that live in the ruined cottage, a mess of pipits in the hedgerow (I think they’re pipits, but they never stay still long enough for me to confirm) – everything but (thank God) ASBO Buzzard, which seems to have called off its campaign of harrassment for the year. At this time of year, I cycle with a bow-wave of birds fleeing before me in feathery panic, from a tiny wren that barely gained enough height and speed to clear my front wheel to the murder of rooks beating slowly away from the scene of some crime on the road. We may not actually be at peak bird (the tens of thousands of geese and swans that descend for the winter probably outnumber – and definitely outweigh – our summer migrants) but it certainly feels like there’s an abundance now, before the swallows leave and the predators and the weather take their toll.
I even watched a peregrine being harassed from pillar to post by a gang of small birds that seemed entirely fearless. If anything, it was the peregrine that was in fear (and I can testify that being flown at even by something much smaller than you is not to be lightly dismissed) for it had left its lunch – a half-plucked pigeon – on the tarmac.
When I came back, birds, peregrine and pigeon had gone, with only a pile of feathers remaining. Make that peak bird minus one.