A hatch. I suggest battening yours down.
This is my fiftieth post. I just thought I’d mention that, quietly. After all, I don’t want to make a song and dance of it. It’s not really important that I’ve reached a half century before the end of innings (2011, as it is more usually known), so I probably shouldn’t trumpet it too loudly next time I blog. No, best to leave it out altogether I should think.
Regular followers of my ‘twit feed’, or whatever it is called, may have noticed a certain fixation with blackbirds since my return to England. Fixation might be fair, certainly as far as birds in general are concerned. But blackbirds? I have been driven to mention them on an almost daily basis because every day they follow me – the first birds heard over breakfast, the bird always singing somewhere in the garden, the bird always gracing the lawn with its presence when all others are hiding away from the ‘European monsoon’.
And whilst they may not be remarkable in appearance, they are definitely striking. Consider how black the male blackbird is: the orange of his beak not subtle at all, a hue chosen from a child’s colouring box, dayglo, perhaps in competition amongst its kind to see whose can shine out brightest across the garden as a lantern to the local ladies. Smooth. When he’s out there on the lawn early in spring, he’s strutting his stuff, saying, ‘look at me!’ Did you ever see such a splendid representative of blackbird kind, a bird so black, a beak so orange?
He’s out there again. Singing his high, strong, lazy song. Peeee-ah-weeee! Peee-wooooo! A loud, squeaky, distinctive tone of voice, cheerful, almost like a toy bird. Not particularly wild, or beautiful, but certainly unique. This is, apparently, one of the characteristic sounds of the wood in the American east, during spring and summer, but somehow I’d either never noticed it before or this common flycatcher had simply evaded me entirely – like many common birds do.
Whatever the reasons for never having heard it before, over the last two weeks I’ve barely stopped hearing it. I picked it up during our first evening in the house, as we arrived from the airport. As we sat and ate round the dining room table, I could hear him sing. He’s there when we sit out on the back deck to eat dinner, he’s still singing at dusk when we’ve retired to the living room. His plain intonations ring out over the dawn chorus of fluty robins, me still barely awake enough to recognise them. I even heard him sing twice whilst I typed this entry.