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Highlights of 2020: The Birds by Catherine Brophy

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Catherine Brophy

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There’s a hedge at the bottom of our garden. It’s not our hedge. It’s on the other side of our back fence and it’s a nuisance. A mix of blackberry bramble and ivy, it creeps over everything. It has strangled our clematis Montana. It has crept over our shed and sneaked inside making it leak. And it doesn’t even give us blackberries. Oh yes, it does produce them but they’re way too high up to collect. We hack it back as best we can, but still it encroaches.

Every Spring a pair of blackbirds nest on our roof. And somewhere nearby a magpie and a pigeon conduct a regular feud. But during Lockdown we noticed more birds than usual, sparrows, with bits of twigs and leaves and fluff in their beaks, flying in and out of the hated hedge. And each morning we woke to their clamorous twitters.

One day while I was out weeding, I stood to consider a maple tree that had escaped its pot. Was growing too big for our tiny plot? Should we cut it down? But I do love a maple and this one looked really cute with its pink leaves peeping out of green buds on the bare branches.
Suddenly the hedge behind me started a furious rustle and a couple of fledglings burst out on to the roof of our shed. They fluttered down to the fence between us and the neighbours. They flapped into the maple. More followed and more and more. I got to fifteen before I lost count. They hopped from branch to branch pecking at leaf buds. They flitted from branch to fence and from fence back to branch. They fluttered down to the ground and hopped to the edge of our tiny pool. They perched on the stones and drank water.

I was enraptured. I put out my arm to lean on the shed when suddenly, a half dozen or so flew out of the maple. They zoomed under my arm and back into the hedge. I felt the wind of their wings on my skin. It was thrilling.

Yes, that was a highlight.

(c) Catherine Brophy

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