Once a week from the beginning of autumn to the end of spring I feed the birds. It’s a little ritual I have. However busy my week has been, however cold it may be, I always make time, early in the morning, to feed the birds.
My dad always fed the birds and I have taken over his routine and when I do it I feel very close to him. It’s my opportunity to take a walk around my garden and discover what new delights have arrived that I might have missed in the course of another busy week. Whilst I am topping up the food I can hear the birds chattering in the nearby bushes and trees and on the roof tops. I imagine them passing the message down the line “She’s putting the food out, it’s going to be a good day!”
The birds in my garden are spoilt. There are fat balls high up on the garage wall for them to enjoy, peanuts in a holder and no mess bird seed on the table. Something for everyone and they all come. From the pigeons who, I fear, if they get any larger will find it impossible to fly, to the gorgeous doves, to the sparrows, tits and blackbirds. The starlings usually arrive en masse at a predetermined time of their choosing and all the other birds quickly vacate the area as my garden turns into a scene from Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds. They descend, squawking and chattering away to one another and then depart in a cloud at some mysterious signal only they recognise. As peace is restored all the other birds come back.
What do I get out of it? I get the beauty of watching the fat pigeons precariously balance themselves on the roof of the bird table or waddle along the paths. I watch the smaller birds flutter and circle, land and explore. I watch the blackbirds strut about like they own the place and I watch the delicate doves sit on the back fence and wait until the rush is over to grab a bite or bathe themselves in the bird bath.
Watching the birds is a sort of nature meditation. Whatever the stresses and strains of the week, they dissolve. A ten-minute break enjoying their company leaves me feeling calm and refreshed.
I don’t feed the birds all year round. Just like it’s not a good idea for us to eat take out every week, it’s not good for them either (my pigeons may not care about their coronary health but I do!) so when the current supplies are used up it will be time to stop again until the autumn.
I’m lucky though because even once the bird table has been tucked away, the birds still come in numbers to enjoy the garden. The doves often nest in one of my trees. Better there than the sky dish which they tried one year. It didn’t end well for either of us. I’d lose the signal just as we’d reached a gripping point in The Blacklist and they would discover that because of the angle of the dish their hard work would eventually reach a tipping point and another dishevelled nest would slip out of the dish and on to the drive. After three attempts and much disruption to my TV signal, they gave up and went back to the tree to the relief of everyone involved.
But the joy of watching the birds is not my own reward for feeding them. They bring me presents, too. I have a number of additions to my garden, plants and flowers I have never planted that suddenly arrive courtesy of the birds dropping seeds or wiping their beaks on the stones and soil. As is the way with these things, the plants they bring often thrive whereas the plants I choose and nurture with such care don’t always live up to my expectations. Some of the flowers they have bestowed on me are unknown to me and even more beautiful for that reason.
Ours is a symbiotic relationship. I give them food, they give me joy and free plants. Personally, I think I get the better end of the deal. They have taught me a valuable lesson: it’s so important to give something of yourself to others. As with me and the birds, what you give you get back2