“What’s going on over there?”
“Squirrel’s sitting on the nut supply.”
“Go tell it we want some!”
“Erm. I think she said something about going off with the flock.”
“Wouldn’t say that to me would you?”
“Apologise to my Red-winged friend!”
“Come away dear.”
“Let’s not get involved!”
Birds were the first non-human creatures I got to know. Mum’s younger brother George lived with aunt Win and Grandma in a small village in Wiltshire.
Uncle George had an aviary full of budgies.
There were house-budgies as well.
When I was very young, there was a house fire and the indoor budgie at that time did not survive. I’m sure I was sad about it but I really don’t remember Snowy. I presume he had been a white bird.
The successor was a smart blue bird called Billy who became a lively and entertaining talker.
Billy spent a lot of time outside his cage, clambering on my aunt’s reading glasses and tormenting the dog.
At bedtime quite a lot of effort was required to persuade Billy to return to his cage.
Billy may have been a tiny bird but his personality seemed to fill the room.
We had a budgie at home too.
The first one was a green bird called Happy. It succumbed early and then came a blue budgie named Pippy.
My father was good at carpentry and built the bird a huge cage which fitted into an alcove in the kitchen.
Pippy assisted by sitting on my father’s hand as her attempted to hammer nails.
Pippy was very attached to my mother. It went everywhere with her, including on one occasion out the back door.
Mum tied a scarf around her neck to discourage Pippy from burrowing into her cleavage.
Anyone familiar with bird behaviour would have guessed what was going on but my parents believed the bird to be male.
When Pippy deposited an egg in my mother’s bra, we learned the truth.
Pippy’s seed was kept in a large Bournvita can on a high shelf.
One day when she had thrown every other object on the floor, Pippy got behind the heavy Bournvita can and pushed it off.
My father took a job overseas and left my mother sorting everything out before our departure six months later.
The matter of what to do about Pippy became the one unresolved issue until one day the bird literally dropped dead at our feet.
Coming home from a cricket match my brother saw the bird book and guessed what had happened.
“We don’t have to worry what to do about Pippy anymore.” he said glumly.
My parents were not animal oriented but I had been allowed to have a hamster that I named Tim after a little boy who lived upstairs. That is where my hamster is supposed to have gone when we left.
Perhaps it did.
Mum and Dad liked budgies and almost always had one, generally called Peter after my brother.
When I visited them after they went home to England, I used to clean the bird’s cage and enjoyed talking to it, stroking it’s beak.
Arriving late one night after a flight from New York, I found the cage empty and Mum announced that she had kept the deceased bird for me to bury.
The fact that it had been a very small creature of fairly remote acquaintance did not make it less sad. Any life that touches our heart is worthy of grief.
This young Thrasher was very far from dead.
After a good dirt bath.
It wasn’t just our budgerigars that interested me.
Mum took us down to the Thames sometimes and we fed bread crumbs to the gulls. Other times it was the pigeons at Trafalgar Square.
Maybe it’s why I have always had a compulsion to feed wild animals. Not always the best thing to do, I came to realise.
Offering nuts to a few squirrels is harmless enough, I think.
While I don’t attempt to befriend them, I am a keen observer.
This little chap was a particularly smart-looking specimen with a very white tummy and white tufts behind his ears.
It looked like a new suit.
We share a piece of fruit for breakfast.
When it’s either become a little over-ripe, or if on occasion it’s not quite ripe enough, we donate it to whoever might like it.
Nothing goes to waste.
This day, Posh squirrel demonstrated its appreciation for a large piece of pear. Or was it a nectarine?
As it munched happily on the fruit, the squirrel seemed to watch me as if to say:
“This food good missus.”
Somehow I doubt it knows the difference between a pear and an apple, or a nectarine.
Around here, that is to say on my property, apples are claimed by deer, but last year we had a very poor crop.
Grant collects them up as they drop and cuts them into bite-sized pieces.
To make it easier for the deer to manage.
Distinguished white ear tufts.