There is a certain song that I recognise, the faint piercing notes can be quite a distance away but my ear always picks it up. But it’s not just my ears, it’s a song that will always speak to my heart. I try to whistle a few notes back, despite the fact that I have never been able to whistle. I whistle whilst standing in the street, even in middle class neighbourhoods. It embarrasses my husband. But then I catch him whistling the same notes too. (He can at least whistle though).
They say that a smell, a taste, a noise can transport you immediately into the past. I know that this song will always be in my heart and whenever I hear it in the future, it will take me back to this summer gone and to a little bird called Manky.
Manky-bird has a very definite hold in our hearts. It is his song and the song of his kinsmen that we hear, sharp notes echoing through the trees. Even when we are on the other side of town, we pause and listen, sometimes whistle back. It’s not likely to be one of our babies that far away but we are captivated all the same, watching for the slightest movement.
But the truth is that we probably will never know how Manky-bird has fared. Hopefully, she is still faring. I ask my husband if the blue tit we’ve just spotted has painted toes and we both laugh and stare hard, squinting, trying to focus on fast-moving, tiny legs, whilst knowing that nail varnish does not last forever. Maybe we should have used a better brand? Long gone, the tell-tale painted legs, worn or weathered or scratched.
Often I feel guilty, I find it hard to believe that we did enough to give them the best chance in the world, I feel that somehow we should have or could have done more. It breaks my heart. Especially when I think of our losses.
But then husband reminds me that from the moment we intervened, they survived a little longer than they would have done anyway. And I guess we can only do our best. And do our best for at that time only. Hindsight always has sharper vision but we were first time parents and all we could do was our best.
(It’s so nerve-wracking for human parents when their offspring learn to drive and get their first wheels, I wonder if bird parents are distressed when their fragile little chick takes to the air for the first time?)
(And isn’t it funny how I still say he for Manky? She was a little girl, just slower to develop so we couldn’t be sure, but she never sprouted the little funky hairdo of the males).
There is a male blue tit who struts on the telephone wire at the front of the house. We really need to seal off the holes because we really can’t cope with another birdy summer! We watch him too. I think it could be the daddy blue tit from the spring, he’s got quite a pronounced quiff going on. We watch him from the kitchen window, sometimes the spare bedroom window. Watching, wondering, hoping that he hasn’t taken up residence again. He is usually silent but we spot him anyway. I know that one of the neighbours has been throwing bread on the front grass so maybe that’s why he’s visiting so close to the house.
There is a small flock of birds flying around the back gardens at the moment, some sparrows, some bob-tails (I think most people call them wagtails), some blue tits … I know. We stand out on the balcony whistling like nutters. I just have to hear one note and my heart, I don’t know, soars? But faint tears come to the corners of my eyes too. It’s a bittersweet song. Because we will never know.
A week or so ago, a blue tit actually came to our bird feeder in the garden. We watched. (We can spot a blue tit now at quite a distance, trust me). A little, sprightly thing, perched nearly upside-down by the hole of the seed feeder. We watched. It pulled out the seeds, spat the ones that it clearly did not approve of onto the ground and ate the ones which took its fancy. We looked at each other and wondered. Wild birds don’t tend to be fussy or picky, you know? So we grabbed a tripod and camera and set it up for the perfect shot, closeup, just in case there was any paint on the legs, you know. But it didn’t come a-visiting again. At least not that we noticed. And even sentimental me has to draw a line at sitting in the window for twelve hours at a time. Life gets in the way. I am not a bird watcher, it seems.
But we’re still wondering.