My father planted a birch tree in the corner of the garden near the back of the house in, if I recall, the early 1990s. The tree grew rapidly and now and then branches have to lopped off as they grow too close to the house on one side or the shed on the other. I would be content to spend my entire three weeks in Ireland sitting in an armchair in Mammy’s kitchen looking out at that tree.
The bird feeders that are kept stocked with peanuts and balls of fat attract a constant fluttering of delightful little birds. There are blue tits and great tits, house sparrows and tree sparrows, chaffinches and green finches. A lone red breasted robin patrols the ground around the base of the tree and flits from branch to branch. This year a family of starlings has begun to join in the feast. Looking out towards the tree I often catch sight of a tiny wren on the ground on the other side of the tree. It is not interested in what the tree has to offer, but hops in and out through a gap under the shed door. A speckle breasted song thrush appeared this morning, hopping on the ground beneath the tree. A wagtail busies about closer to the house, pecking and drinking from a puddle of water. Wagtails have delighted me since I was a young child, with the urgency of their walk and their little heads bob-bobbing as though they are engaged in rapid and slightly mad conversation with themselves.
There are arguments at times, as one finch decides the food placed in the crook of the tree is its alone, and there are mid-air confrontations between it and the others. All are wary of the robin and keep well out of his way. And I hope the recent arrival of the large, long-beaked starlings won’t have a detrimental effect on the other little birds who feed on the tree.
But, oh, what a riot of colour and movement and life. The vibrant green of the green finches with their sudden flashes of yellow when they take to flight. The familiar green-yellow breast of the blue tits, and the bright yellow breasts of the great tits with their dinner jacket black stripe down the middle. The rusty red of the chaffinch and the deep red of the robin are in warm contrast to these greens and yellows. The sparrows may lack the colourfulness of the tits and finches, but they delight me nonetheless. The tininess of the wren with its little square upright tail fills me with joy as do the sharp black and white patterns on my little friend, the wagtail.
While they are visiting Granny, Lily and Katie are responsible for keeping the bird feeders stocked and they are taking their responsibilities very seriously. I wish my friend Anna were here to enjoy these birds and to capture their images on my behalf with her superior wildlife photography skills. Alas, I lack both the skills and the equipment to even attempt to share images of these magnificent little creatures with you.
But for the next couple of weeks, through my running around to visit friends and family, going places and doing things, I will continue to find time to gaze out the window at the birch tree, sometimes quietly and alone with a cup of tea, sometimes with Lily and Katie beside me, and take delight in the antics of the (so far) eleven species of garden birds who flit and feed close to and in the tree.