Here in Scotland, we’re not in a second lockdown (yet?) but for me – and for many others – another lockdown won’t change 2020 life much anyway. Although shielding is no longer “a thing,” I still don’t really leave the house, other than for school pick-up, and I expect this will continue, with or without new restrictions and/or a lockdown. Luckily for me, I’m something of a homebody at the best of times, mostly happy in my own company, but it’s still a challenge (and not one I always win) to keep going and stay positive.
My current expectation is that I will be in my house for most of the next few months, at least, so I’m trying to make my flat comfy and cosy in readiness. Some of you may know that I lost both my elderly cats to cancer this year (#2020) and I have been sorely missing the companionship of animals. That’s why I’m trying to draw as much wildlife to my garden as possible and today I wrote a little something about that. It’s not exactly to do with hearts, but I suspect the general scenario is familiar to many living through this pandemic with a heart condition or other chronic illness/disability, so I thought I’d share it anyway. Hope you enjoy this little glimpse into my lockdown life 🙂
Tell It To The Birds; or, My Social Life 2020
I made friends with the squirrel who lives in my front garden, fed it peanuts from my hands as its claws gripped my fingers and its eyes watched me for signs of sudden movement or a breath breathed wrong. It rarely ate the nuts, just took whatever I offered – it could never get enough –and buried them in random locations where it might not even be able to find them again. One day the squirrel bit my finger, but tentatively, as though checking to see what I was made of. Although I probably smelled like a peanut, I don’t think the squirrel imagined I was one – its teeth closed too gently, not even breaking the skin. Nevertheless, I started leaving the peanuts on the ground beside me. One bitten, twice shy and, besides, I had witnessed my daughter’s blood pool on the path in the Botanic Gardens some years ago, so I know a squirrel can draw blood…and who knows how many other fingers it’s bitten lately! Is a squirrel bite a coronavirus infection risk? I don’t know.
I sprinkle birdseed into a feeder held to our window by suction cups, and regularly lean out of our living-room window with a broom held at arm’s length, wavering about while I try to hook a bird feeder full of mixed seeds onto the only tree branch I can reach. I do this on an almost daily basis (what must the neighbours think?) because the birds empty it so quickly. It’s not that they eat a lot, but they throw away everything other than the black-shelled sunflower seeds, which are only around 1/50 of the seed mix. It might be more economical to buy only sunflower seeds rather than a mixed bag, but then I would miss seeing the birds rifle through the dross to reach the little black-gold nuggets now and then. Some of the smaller birds watch others of their species clearing the less-favoured seeds, then chase them off as the coveted sunflower seeds near the feeding hole. They remind me of people in a casino, or pub more likely, counting others’ unsuccessful turns on a one-armed bandit, swooping in to clean up only once the odds of a pay-out are stacked in their favour.
The wood pigeons generally eat from the feeder attached to the windowpane – it’s shaped like a house, open fronted, and made of clear Perspex. The pigeons vary in intelligence, some pecking repeatedly at the Perspex as though knocking on the window for our attention, confused as to why they aren’t getting the seeds they can see behind the plastic. Others stretch up and over the ledge, emptying the feeder in a jiffy, their crops straining with the haul. Mr Pidgey is our family’s favourite. His wife (partner? lover?) was killed by a cat a couple of years ago and he has usually been alone since, occasionally acting the gooseberry with another pigeon couple. This week, however, Mr Pidgey’s been spotted with a very beautiful pigeon who should, based on appearances, be way out of his league. I like to watch his baffled expression as she pursues him from branch to branch.
Sometimes, if I haven’t got round to refilling the window feeder, the wood pigeons try to land on the branch feeder and send it crashing down. The seeds usually spill out all over the ground and the squirrel side-eyes me as I approach, grabbing as many seeds as it can before I pick up the feeder and rehang it. Does it know I’m the same one who gives it the peanuts? I don’t think so, otherwise it would know that I don’t mind it taking the spilled seed. The secret to keeping the feeder on the branch is to refill the window feeder regularly. I believe the pigeons prefer to go for easy pickings when they can.
I need to write down my thoughts about the wildlife in my city garden as there’s no-one to talk to about it, other than the birds.