Kitchen tables and bird tables

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.

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