Searching for Sanctuary

The sound of fairy wings

My garden is full of the sound of wings.

The solid buzz of bees and bumbles, the softer drone of hoverflies and other small flyers, the barely-there flap of a butterfly and, of course, the soft flutter of feathered flight around the feeders.

This is the sound of fairy wings, I think.

Because, what else to call such tiny creatures but magical, who can survive a world of people and cats and magpies and bitter winter cold, and still come each day to my bird B&B (buffet and bath) with their pink-pink-pink-pink and beebeebeep songs?

Blue tits, great tits, sparrows, robins, wrens, dunnocks, chaffinches and goldfinches (but not this year – perhaps they are on holiday abroad?), blackbirds, collared doves, and the great, clumsy wood pigeons dwarfing them all and sitting in the water dish – these are my avian guests. In winter they come alone, and in early summer with their offspring, taking them treats, feeding them tidbits as the fledgelings flap their fluffy, not-quite-ready wings in greedy excitement.

“See,” say the parents, “this is our favourite restaurant. You can always count on a good meal here!” and “This is sunflower, full of goodness; and these are mealworms, rare and delicious!”

By midsummer, the younglings are coming on their own, helping themselves to their favourite meals, while their soft, indeterminate colours gradually shift to the clear yellow, black, blue, pink, orange and brown that will define their adult uniforms.

Blue tits and great tits prefer suet balls and peanuts; sparrows love the seed mixes, selecting their choices and casually tossing the rest to the ground for less-fussy dunnocks and pigeons. Blackbirds will feast when the grapes on the pergola ripen. And robins and wrens devour mealworms and earthworms and caterpillars with unholy glee, smashing their hapless victims on stones to tenderise them.

I am glad that wrens and robins are tiny; I wouldn’t like to meet a robin the size of an ostrich.

Next year these same birds – those who have survived cats and magpies and winter – will bring their own fluttering, fairy babies to the bird B&B in my modern cottage garden. And I will be waiting to greet them.

juvenile blue tits in the modern cottage garden

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