Today the sun was shining and the sky was blue enough to make a whole ship’s company of sailors' trousers.
was always the way my dear Mum determined whether a day could be considered fine or not, though she always kept to the singular: “Enough blue to make a sailor’s trousers!” was one of her much-repeated maxims. She came out with it mostly
on Monday wash-days, surveying the cloudy skies as she assessed whether or not to risk hanging out the laundry on the clothes line. If there was enough blue in the sky to make a sailor’s trousers (bell-bottomed of course) then it was safe to start pegging.
As I said, before I digressed, today was a bright and sunny day – about as different as it could possibly be from yesterday, which was dark, miserable, windy and wet.
If only, I wail to Mr B, we could have completed our Big Garden Bird-Watch today, instead of yesterday.
The Big Garden Bird-Watch, in case you hadn’t
heard, was organised by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) over the weekend of 25 – 26 January. The aim – to encourage people to spend an hour recording the birds visiting their garden, submitting the results to the RSPB which
will use the information as an important indicator of the health of the countryside.
Yesterday afternoon I pushed our two-seater settee up to the patio doors,
settled us both down with a cup of coffee and binoculars and set up the on-line bird counter on our Us-Pad, so that we could record every little feathered friend visiting us over the next sixty minutes. “A whole hour!” protested Mr B –
but nevertheless he took his seat beside me and we gazed out at the rainy scene outside. It wasn’t exactly a promising sight.
On a normal day we would
expect to have totted up a fantastic range of winged visitors to our garden including blue tits, great tits, long-tailed tits, sparrows, robins and our resident Great Spotted Woodpecker. Yesterday afternoon they were all presumably huddled together somewhere
sheltering from the rain and waiting until they could see a small blue patch of sky large enough to make a sailor’s trousers.
Every so often, a multi-choice
question popped up on the bird counter for us to answer. We got some right and some wrong. Mr B said the RSPB was trying to stop us going to sleep over the course of our hour’s Bird-Watch. I pointed out that we were over a quarter of the
way through already. Time flies when you are having fun.
The pigeons were not deterred by the rain, nor were the magpies. Cat-calling sea-gulls swooping inwards from the sea shore circled
above the garden. “How many? How many?” I asked Mr B who was trying to count them all. It was hard to be sure so I tapped in a number which was definitely an under-estimate, rather than an over-estimate. The bird counter didn’t
believe me. “Are you sure you have seen this many sea gulls?” it asked me doubtfully. I wanted to retort that we do live at the sea-side but there was no way of answering anything but “yes” or “no”.
We were half-way through and Mr B said he needed to stretch his legs so he would head into the kitchen and have a look out of the front window to see what was going on, bird-wise,
there. “Anything to report?” I asked him on his return. He told me he had seen an ostrich laying an egg in the flower bed. I was not sure Mr B was taking the Big Garden Bird-Watch seriously enough.
Suddenly all hell broke loose in the garden as we were invaded by starlings, like a horde of Teddy Boys bent on creating mischief and mayhem on the bird feeder. There were dozens of them and I quickly
lost count but entered as accurate a number as possible. The bird counter was dubious. “Are you sure you saw this many starlings?” it prompted me. “Come and see what’s going on in our garden!” I felt like retorting,
“It’s the Battle of Britain all over again...” A group of starlings is apparently called a “murmuration” which doesn’t in any way accurately describe the row which was going on in our back garden.
At the end of the hour (which, like the birds, flew by) we had totted up a fair number of birds seen and registered – but it wasn’t at all a fair reflection of the bird-life we would normally
see in our garden. No tits, no robins, only a couple of sparrows, and definitely no woodpecker. I submitted our return feeling slightly disappointed but hoping our small contribution would be helpful.
In the interests of accuracy - though somewhat to Mr B's disappointment - I left out the ostrich...