Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

The Week When No Birds Sang

After going on for ages about how the birds have been all over the garden, eating us out of house and home and hawthorn berries, last week was eerily quiet. I topped up the feeders, and they stayed full for days, much to the chagrin of the woodpigeons, who depend on small birds to knock the seed down for them. I watched my neighbour’s garden enviously – she is more efficient and more generous than I am, and her feeders are always busy, but no, her garden was empty too.

I did see the sparrowhawk a couple of times, and there’s a grey squirrel and a couple of visiting cats, but they don’t visit often enough, I’d have thought, to put all the birds off so completely. The fields are ploughed and the winter wheat is already sprouting, so they can’t be in the stubble, and almost all the berries along the river have gone, so they can’t have found alternative food sources. So where are they? and why have they gone?

I wondered if the birds I had seen were migratory, and they’ve just pushed on further south, ahead of the bad weather. I’ve never noticed this before, but maybe I should have. I was getting anxious, wondering about diseases or pollution that hadn’t registered on the human scale. A silent spring didn’t seem out of the question.

However, in the last day or two activity seems to have picked up. There are small flocks of starlings about now, and I can hear the cross ‘ticking’ sounds of blue tits in the hedges as I go out in the mornings. Either the sparrowhawk has moved on, and resident birds are more confident, or new arrivals from northern parts have arrived to fill the gaps. There are crows and magpies calling, and a robin territory-marking the garden from his post on the gate. Even trade on the feeders has picked up. Good.






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