Alexander Averin

Monday, 28 January 2008


Dear Diary,

God loved the birds and invented trees, Man loved the birds and invented cages
Jacques Deval

A few words on birds, our much-loved feathered friends.

I’ll start with a few poems.

A Celtic poem

Little bird! O little bird!
I wonder at what thou doest,
Thou singing merry far from me,
I in sadness all alone!

Little bird! O little bird!
I wonder at how thou art
Thou high on the tips of branching boughs,
I on the ground a-creeping!

Little bird! O little bird!
Thou art music far away,
Like the tender croon of the mother loved
In the kindly sleep of death.


A Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.
But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.
The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.
But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.
The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou

I Looked Up

I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitchpines—
thick bird,
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back—
colour of copper, iron, bronze—
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.
What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.
When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.

Mary Oliver

We’ve just had the RSPB birdwatch weekend and we were asked to do a bird-count for an hour. I didn’t actually get time to do this but I do know the visitors that I have at the moment. The regular ones that always visit just as long as there is food out will come every day, all day long, back and forth to the tables. I have a table in my back garden, by the kitchen window, handy to look at while I am washing up or cooking and one by the river bank in the front garden. I can see the latter from my desk at the moment. My dear neighbour J also feeds them so they have a choice of fast food outlets to choose from in this locality, lucky birds. Our feeding stations provide peanuts, mixed corn, porridge oats, hunks of M’s home made bread which they just gobble as fast as they can, they adore it so and I also put out other odds and ends, whatever is to hand really. Sammy Squirrel helps them clear their tables of course,

One of my borrowers at the library said that he has a sparrowhawk visitor to his garden who actually sits on his bird table waiting/hoping to catch some smaller avine visitors. Our sparrowhawk hides at a safe distance, still and quiet, just like a cat, he just watches. Spooky really but I have to tell myself it is just Nature and I mustn’t interfere. Though haven’t I interfered already by providing (unnatural) food to lure the wild birds to my garden?

I don’t call it a garden though, it’s more a wildlife garden/nature-reserve-in-the-making and it sits beside a river, a field and some woodland and we are surrounded by farmland. I am trying to make a haven for wildlife here and there is a lot of life around.

I do feel that I share my little home with all these creatures but only on a small scale for surely we humans are sharing the planet with all the other forms of life aren’t we? We are such an arrogant species that we behave as if we are THE only life-force that matters on the planet. But we are relative newcomers, are we not? And if we carry on as we are we may not be here for very much longer. But the Earth will survive.

But I digress again. I just asked M if he had anything to contribute to this wee blog about birds and he said ‘If they wear mini-skirts they are more attractive’. So I think we’ll gloss over his contribution shall we?

Back to the weekend bird count. I know we had the following visitors though not all at once.

Blackbirds, thrushes, wood pigeons, nuthatch, great tits, blue tits, wren, sparrows, magpies, crows, greater spotted woodpecker, greenfinches, goldfinches, yellowhammer, chaffinches, robins, siskins. Buzzards and kites flew overhead as usual. At work I have the ravens. And last but not least on the riverbank at home are my darling dippers. At night we had owls. I saw a dead pheasant on the road near here and that was very sad as he may have been a visitor, an escapee from some cruel hunting ground.

There are some who say that birds are symbolic, divine messengers of the Spirit, kinds of angels in feathered form. I have a special tree in our field, it’s a crab-apple and a very old and wise tree he is too. I feel very calm and comforted when I am near him, I take him all my troubles. And the funny thing is when I go and visit him for a spot of tree-human communion, a robin or two always comes and perches on a branch near me. I talk to them too and they answer. Robins are especially communicative aren’t they? OK some of you will dismiss me as a little deranged, so if you do, stop reading now and go and find a sensible, down to earth blogger - but if you want to stick with me and don’t think me mad, thanks. I call all birds angels and can’t imagine life without their company and especially their song. I’ve mentioned Belsen before, the place where there are plenty of trees but not one bird.

We have bird boxes in the garden, it will soon be Spring and they will soon be snapped up by excited and passionate young homemakers taking up residence and preparing their nests. I especially look forward to the pied flycatchers who nest over the road in a box on a ‘special’ pine tree near the forge. They have lots of bird boxes next door too, including owl boxes and also a smaller bird box with a built in camera, I hope to buy one of those for the granddaughters this year. I shall have to find out if you need a separate TV to be able to fix one up.

I’d better sign off now, but before I go here is one last poem.
They are favourite poets of mine, Mary Oliver and Maya Angelou, I hope you like these poems too.


This morning
two mockingbirds
in the green field
were spinning and tossing
the white ribbons
of their songs
into the air.
I had nothing
better to do
than listen.
I mean this
In Greece,
a long time ago,
an old couple
opened their door
to two strangers
who were,
it soon appeared,
not men at all,
but gods.
It is my favourite story--
how the old couple
had almost nothing to give
but their willingness
to be attentive--
but for this alone
the gods loved them
and blessed them--
when they rose
out of their mortal bodies,
like a million particles of water
from a fountain,
the light
swept into all the corners
of the cottage,
and the old couple,
shaken with understanding,
bowed down--
but still they asked for nothing
but the difficult life
which they had already.
And the gods smiled, as they vanished,
clapping their great wings.
Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning--
whatever it was I said
I would be doing--
I was standing
at the edge of the field--
I was hurrying
through my own soul,
opening its dark doors--
I was leaning out;
I was listening

Mary Oliver

Of course the one thing I really admire and envy about birds is their ability to fly, for that would be a gift I would love to own.

I have flown in my dreams before now but that’s another story, another blog, one on dreams perhaps? I feel one coming on……

Just a song before I go, one I absolutely love, another oldie.

Songbird by
Fleetwood Mac, written and sung by Christine McVie.

A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.
Chinese Proverb

Bye for now,

PS The last two bird pics are by an artist friend of mine, Sean Milne.


muddyboots said...

lovely picture of pheasants.

lampworkbeader said...

What a lovely blog. Birds are so beautiful. I must say I have a particular love of sparrowhawks. They are so fast and strong in flight.

LittleBrownDog said...

Gorgeous, thoughtful blog, Cait. I love that moving poem by Mary Oliver - it's so true. I love the sound of birdsong, too, although I can't name all the birds that come into our garden.

Frances said...


Thank you for the wonderful observations and contemplations and, most of all, the digressions!

Your friend's art work is quite beautiful.

The poetry that you've shared with us really took me to another place.

This blog of yours is a treat, Cait.

Tom Foolery (TF) said...

I love the Chinese Proverb TFX

CAMILLA said...

I lovely blog Cait,

I love the birds, can spend many an hour just watching them.

Lovely pieces of Art by your friend, and I have a book by Maya Angelou, I adore her Poems.

Your writing is beautiful, always a delight to read.


Fern said...

A beautiful blog, I loved the poems especially the one by Maya Angelou. When we are out walking it doesn't matter where we stop for a break, a robin always appears from nowhere!
Thanks for your kind comment on my Day blog.
best wishes

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

You know your opening quote sums it all up . . .We do that to so many animals in the name of 'love' but if you really loved them then why would you want to cage them.

The fox took my chickens - but then the fox was doing what a fox does - down to me really for not better protecting my hens - but I didn't want to cage them. Dilemma or nature.

The animals were here first and will be here long after we have finished screwing up the world.

Lovely Blog as always.

Fennie said...

And sadly they are disappearing. Here there seem fewer swallows and martins each year and the lapwings that I remember from my childhood are no more either.

elizabethm said...

Lovely blog, Cait. I love birds too and did do the birdwatch but rather stupidly at the wrong time of day - late in the afternoon - when I know from watching that we get far more in the morning. We get pretty much all your list and this morning I have been watching a bullfinch who is a new visitor.

Posie Rosie said...

Lovely blog Cait, we have been busy filling the bird feeders here, youngest has been keeping a bird diary which she brought home from school this week too.

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