April’s Homework: Nature and our summer blackbirds

Franny at The Curious Professor Z has set as this month’s blogging homework task to write a post regarding nature. You can read her lovely post, which incorporates the theme, poetry and beautiful illustrations here.


All too often we close our ears and our eyes to the abundance of nature around us; indeed sometimes we actively shy away. I’m guilty of this – the vaguest hint of anything with wings, stripes and a sting heading my way and I turn into a shrieking mess. However, as we’ve settled into this house, we’ve allowed nature to claim certain parts of our back yard, encouraging clematis, honeysuckle and climbing roses over the brick wall. As a result we now have blackbirds nesting yearly, and this year’s first brood have just fledged this week and scattered to the winds. Mr B was strutting his stuff on the dilapidated outhouse roof this morning (used to be the outside toilet when the house was built), so I suspect a second brood will not be long in appearing, just as the clematis comes into flower. We actively encourage and protect the birds in our yard (though we don’t feed them), so it’s gratifying to have them return year after year.

Fuzzy chick wonders what happens now!

Fuzzy chick wonders what happens now…

The drainpipe sparrows are also back, the only other birds that the female blackbird will tolerate in the yard. I’ve seen them ganging up on other birds – particularly starlings and pigeons – driving them out of their territory. The yard has been left with an L-shape of grass which feeds them, plus our garden furniture has seen better days and it would be fair to say that this year it is basically insect food, and unsafe to sit on! We’ve pulled some of it apart and made piles for insects to feed on, which in turn feeds the blackbirds. There’s also a small compost bin with the top open so they can all stomp about in there. One of the rose bushes is particularly prone to greenfly – but rather than use chemicals I wipe the thick of them off with my fingers (green bug fingers, how delightful!), and leave the rest for a family of finches who swoop down from a neighbouring yard and pick them clean.

Mrs B in situ

Mrs B in situ

The drawback to a bird friendly yard is that it isn’t particularly attractive to certain human eyes. Long grass, drifts of leaves, beetle infested wood piles, riotous clematis, a rather vigorous rosemary bush – we may love it, but the more pristine members of my family are not so keen! To them it does look slovenly and unkempt, which in a way it is. I have been giving it some consideration, and once the nesting birds have moved on I’m intending to split the yard two ways – the darker part of the L being given over to nature in a slightly more controlled manner by planting shade loving plants like ferns, and the more open section at the bottom of the yard being kept a little tidier with a smaller metal table and chairs. We’ve had to use the shed door to block the dog from part of the yard when the chicks were bouncing about trying out their wings, so it makes sense to make it a more permanent split (and it would look infinitely better). This is a task for August, when the summer birds are moving on – and before the winter robin moves back in. I found him in my kitchen earlier this year, beautiful little chestnut brown bird, bright crimson chest and wings with a golden edge to them. I helped him swiftly out, but house invasions by the birds are becoming increasingly common, much to the dog’s consternation.

Mrs B invaded by great tits!

Mrs B invaded by great tits!

The front garden is also bird friendly, though in a much more controlled manner as I don’t want them nesting out front – there are too many cats about. My neighbours may also object if we severely dented the street’s kerb appeal! I love going to bed at dusk and hearing the chorus of song birds, then waking to the same 7 hours later. It’s also rather humbling watching the lives of these beautiful birds day by day as they work so hard to feed and protect their families – literally opposite my kitchen window. We humans are so incidental to their everyday existence. As long as we stay here there will be a place for them in our world.


6 thoughts on “April’s Homework: Nature and our summer blackbirds

  1. That’s it! I’m coming to visit you. What a wonderful way to encourage nature to do the things that it does! Here in Staten Island everyone has perfectly manicured lawns and very boring gardens. No one really considers what they plant and how it will affect the wildlife around it. When I was in charge of my Mom’s garden I planted lots of plants that are indigenous to the area, especially butterfly bushes and plants that the bees love.

    Thanks for participating!

    • It’s a pleasure. I’d forgotten about butterflies – the garden often houses some pretty ones stopping by on their migratory pattern, particularly peacocks. In my next post I want to post some images of the shack’s ‘garden’, right now in glorious spring bloom with wildflowers.

      And you are welcome any time 🙂

  2. I agree with you, there’s nothing better than waking up in the morning to the sound of birds singing outside your window! Except maybe being woken up at 3:00 a.m. by a great blue heron. First time I heard one we were living in the trailer and I thought something was being massacred outside our flimsy trailer door. I was terrified! But now I think it’s cool.

    I think it’s a great idea to leave a bit of your yard wild so the birds have someplace to call home. 🙂

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