Sitting at the kitchen table doing some artwork. The rain on the French windows is blurring the view of the garden. From the corner of my eye I see a squadron of rooks targeting the lawn, maybe thirty or so, white-coned beaks cleaving the air as they come in to land.
Next time I look up the rain has stopped and there is a pale green blot on the grass – then a flash of red and I recognise the outline of the green woodpecker sitting completely still – until it hears us reaching for the camera …Blackbirds, robins, chaffinches and collared doves are all taking advantage of the bird tables, along with a couple of very smart tweedy pheasants who are scouting around beneath the feeders.
Like a shuffle of playing cards, a greater spotted woodpecker clamps on to the peanut holder, a red mark on the back of his head showing him to be the male. He attacks the nuts with gusto, hammering with his powerful beak.
A couple of weeks ago a sparrow hawk dropped in – a beautiful bird with death in his eyes – and sat, rather incongruously, on the washing line. He looked imperiously around with his clockwork orange stare, but by then, the garden birds had made themselves scarce.
I got back to my artwork, thinking of my Great Uncle Richard who was a bird watcher and artist at the beginning of the Twentieth Century. He created detailed pencil portraits of the birds he saw from his home near the Exe Estuary in Devon. I never met him, but have some of his drawings – each pencil stroke as light and sensitive as a bird’s feather.