Five doors down

Illustration of a sparrow by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (’re struggling for birdlife in our garden. I’d started off with great hope. We had a number of visitors over the summer. Granted they were of the townie variety but we’re not fussy. Garden birds are so companionable and we used to love watching them from the windows on the farm. You really feel you belong when a rowdy robin counts you as territory. Over the autumn months all we’ve seen here is a fiercesome magpie. He is foiled by our seed feeders, which are made for much smaller birds, but the fat balls he knocks to the ground and wolfs down in one sitting. I’ve stopped putting bread crumbs out on the patio as they only got eaten by slugs. You would think the slug banquet might have attracted something avian but even the magpie wasn’t interested. Where were all the birds?

Then, coming home from dropping Little Owl off at school one morning I heard the most raucous kerfuffle coming from the hedge outside of the house five doors down from us. I couldn’t see what was making the noise but I knew it was birds. After a little bit of reading I decided they were probably House Sparrows. Wonderful news! So, it’s not the case that there aren’t any birds round here. The hedge made me realise what the problem is, there’s just no cover for them. Our garden, and all the garden’s round us are bare patches of mossy grass surrounded by houses and bare fences. In spite of all our summer plantings, everything will take a number of years to mature to the point where it will provide shelter for nervous birds. The Clematis Montana, just next to the bird feeders has taken advantage of the mild autumn and vigorously claimed one fence panel, but everything else is less than a foot or so off the ground. Still, in five years time, hopefully someone else will be enjoying a few feathered friends plucking berries from our carefully selected wildlife-friendly gardening. In the mean time we’ll keep tipping our caps to our sparrow neighbours in the hedge five doors down.

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