A Bit of a Racket

Dear Readers, over the years I have learned to tune in to what’s going on in the garden by the sounds that the birds make, and today there was a positive cacophony of clicking and wheezing and squeaking. I followed the sound around the garden, and eventually came across this handsome chap sitting on the fence. His name is Bear (very appropriate I think), and while I have occasionally seen him patting a frog on the head, he is generally much more interested in just hanging out.

However, this didn’t put off the little family of wrens. Have a listen here! I managed to get a fleeting glimpse of one on camera, but there were probably four or five of them, making a combination of loud clicks and much softer contact calls.

Seeing a wren in the garden used to be a cause for some celebration, as it was such an unusual sight. Since lockdown, however, I’ve realised that the garden is positively inundated with the little darlings, creeping through the hedge and the bittersweet like so many adorable flying mice. Such feisty characters, and such big voices! I have rarely managed to get a decent photo, as they are so hyperactive, but here are a couple of photos by John Humble, a long-term Facebook friend and wonderful photographer.

And here is an excerpt from Carol Ann Duffy’s Christmas poem, The Wren Boys, from 2015. It makes me think about all the things that we project onto animals, all the stories that we tell ourselves about them, and how they matter not a jot to the creature involved. It also makes me think about the Helen Macdonald book that I’ve just finished, ‘Vesper Flights’. A review will be making an appearance soon!

Hedge-bandit, song-bomb, dart-beak, the wren
hops in the thicket, flirt-eye; shy, brave,
grubbing, winter’s scamp, but more than itself –
ten requisite grams of the world’s weight.

And here’s the craic: that the little bird
had betrayed a saint with its song,
or stolen a ride on an eagle’s back
to fly highest; traitor and cheat.

But poets named it Dryw, druid and wren,
sought its hermit tune for a muse;
sweethearts thought it a foolproof blessing for love.
Which was true for the wren? None of the above.


2 thoughts on “A Bit of a Racket

  1. Anne

    I too have found the changes in bird calls can often lead to the sighting of a snake, or a potential nest raider such as a Burchell’s coucal that is being harrassed by the whole avian gang. When sudden silence descends, however, I have learned to look up, for that usually indicates the presence of a raptor such as an African Harrier-Hawk, a Yellow-billed Kite and once even a Steppe Buzzard.


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