Magpie Anthology

Lockdown: Nesting Instincts

In these locked down days, in which the Government is keen for us to be ‘alert’, I am already a few steps ahead. Since March I have been feeling somehow more tuned in to my surroundings, simply by being at home more. I’m far more aware of the pace my life is or isn’t moving at, what I do or don’t need, and I’m increasingly mindful of the things I had previously taken for granted.

Take the wildlife out of my back window. I’m lucky enough to have a decent patch of greenery to enjoy, and the kids are blessed to be able to play out daily. I’m sure there were always plenty of birds in our garden before the virus, but either they’ve now turned up their chirruping volume a few notches, or I have only just started taking the time to hear them. Without ambient traffic noise, the dawn chorus is enough to wake me, and it’s all the more noticeable since I no longer have much call for an alarm clock.

My youngest has always been into birds and I’ve recently joined her in gazing out of the windows, trying to identify them all.  We’ve even dug out a National Trust bird watching book from the recesses of the shelves to help identify these new (or new to me at least) visitors. I’m quite the twitcher now: We’ve clocked thrushes, jays, and all manner of tits, plus a noisy woodpecker, that lets out great raucous cackles at regular intervals throughout the day. When last seen, it was attempting unsuccessfully to bore its way through a telegraph pole.

We are also thrilled to find that we have new residents in the wooden bird box my son had proudly made at Cubs a couple of years ago. The box is close to the house and we haven’t previously seen so much as a flash of plumage near it, so we were amazed to catch sight of a pretty blue tit squeezing its way through the tiny hole in the front panel to nest. Since then we’ve kept an eagle-eyed vigil on the comings and goings of this little home and have read up on the nesting habits of small birds. Home education at its best.

My youngest suggests that our new friends, the blue tits are a little bit like our family in lockdown. I think she has a point. The adult birds only fly out of their nest to bring back food or for exercise, and only as many times as is necessary. Like us, the chicks are only too aware of the perils of the world beyond their safe haven, and one day soon we’ll all have to face a bewildering new world. Plus, with the whole family sharing a confined space, I’m sure that the blue tit parents have to put up with just as much incessant, needy cheeping from their offspring as I do…

But perhaps it’s not actually my family watching the bird brood at all, but rather it’s the other way round. Maybe my noisy bunch are unwittingly keeping Mr and Mrs Blue Tit entertained as some kind of naturalist experiment, and they simply moved in next door for a better peek.

Some day (hopefully in the near future) we’ll fly free like our feathered friends again, but until then, I’m going to make like a baby bird and stay cosy.

Words: Lucy Callington

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