The Language of the Birds

The steel-grey wings scythed the sky with the deadly assurance of the ultimate killing machine –

in spite of ruthless aerial bombardment by a squadron of jet-black interceptors.  I stood, stunned; as the drama unfolded before me.

But this was not the usual noisy tirade of Tornadoes, Typhoons,  Hawks or other RAF aircraft at which we regularly shake our fists in cheerful (& sometimes furious) irony; shouting in baleful ‘yokel’ accents, “gerroff moi laaand”  as they speed along the valley & send shocked sheep skittering in their low-level wake. 

No;  this was something far more fearsome for many of the ffarm’s more miniscule residents….


A wild, hungry, Peregrine Falcon.

Meanwhile our ghoulish murder of crows were determined to protect their own potential meal – a flight of spiralling starlings, wheeling & squabbling, far below – who’d whizzed in abrupt alarm into the hedgerow as Brynn & I tackled the (literally) thorny problem of de-icing the water troughs peppered throughout our frozen fields.  

The ragged, inky-black bulks mercilessly dive-bombed their perceived threat in eerie apeishness of terrifying Horseman of Apocaplyptic worst nightmares; skimming just above the northerly hedgeline of a sepia, snow-cast Parc Carreg Gwen, where the ponies are currently in residence.  

Completely unfazed, the tercel neatly tucked himself into an arresting halt after his incredible plummeting dive; twisted with aerobatic precision in the frost-frozen, clear air;  & sped effortlessly away across the wild, wooded valley with scarce a beat of those fearsome, forceful wings.


But this is a typical rural drama which we are privileged to witness on a regular basis.  I’ve oft felt frustration at the lonely mew of the buzzards, patrolling across the valley in pursuit of  a single-minded meal – one of my plump capons, usually;  awe at the magnificent circle of a clutch of Red Kites, wheeling & soaring on the thermals whilst searching for a potential carrion-capacious meal (albeit lamentable diners during the lows of lambing season); & more occasionally & rarely, the blood-tingling rush of the swift wingbeat-heartbeat of a Peregrine or Sparrowhawk calmly whipping across this timeless landscape in the brief blur of their consummate killer’s eye.

But oh, how I miss my first beloved brush with the wild world:  the short life I shared during my teenage years with a stunningly beautiful young male kestrel…who, tragically, was shot in cold blood by some testosterone-fuelled stupid lads, after all my efforts to successfully befriend that otherwise lost, lovely soul.

Meanwhile the snow has brought the usual suspects flocking to the bird table & feeders in our garden.  Lack of food has made them bolder than usual; so today I was able to get a few photos although the pretty little nuthatches wouldn’t co-operate, & the handsome Great Spotted Woodpecker didn’t stay still for long enough for me to get a decent picture.

snowfeb09-079First there was an unfailingly-effervescent, plump little robin.  There are quite a few of these highly-territorial little characters, here on the Ffarm; you soon get to know each of  them & the extent of their ‘patch’.   The robin who spends a great deal of time in the goat housing of the Dairy Complex is remarkably bold, & will often come & sit very close by in the hope I’ll offer him an impromptu meal as I feed the Milkforce.   Apart from the cheery crimson blaze of the robin’s breast, warm against the winter showers on this snowy day, this little bird’s exquisite song is an outpouring of such sweet beauty – I’d certainly recommend having a listen on the Garden Birds or Dawn Birdsong links (in the RH column under ‘Environment’). 

snowfeb09-081Then there was the colourful Jay; a shy bird with exotic plumage whose gregarious voice will often cheekily imitate a wide variety of his feathered colleagues in the locality.  And the badly-drawn face always makes me laugh; a bit like having applied their lipstick without a mirror, or when drunk.  The piercing ‘kraar-kraar-kraar’ alarm call can often be heard echoing eerily from thickets & coverts along the locality’s valleys.

But that’s another facet of what is wonderful about living here:  you can never feel alone.  People frequently comment that as we’re so ‘isolated’ it must often get lonely; however as I know the bleat of every goat; the ‘baa’ of every sheep; the whinny of every equine & the cackle of every hen, my day is punctuated by a cacophany of familiar voices as they welcome me whilst I potter about the chores.  

And this extends even further afield; because with a little application you can soon learn the language of the birds, & it’s beautiful; not just the vague appreciation of an indiscriminately sweet song but the knowledge of who’s visiting & how they’re feeling.  Even though I cannot necessarily see them I know just who is heralding me from the bushes & trees; it gives a feeling of warmth, of well-being & familiarity to each & every day, whatever the weather.  

Whether it’s the measured, liltingly rhythmic call of a great tit; the hurried tumbling stream of song from the tiny wren; or the echoing rhythm of a woodpecker’s drumming from far down in the wooded valley, it gives me such a timelessly simple but deeply profound pleasure. 

Padding regularly into the kitchen for repeat mugs of hot, comforting tea whilst tackling the usual toweringly precarious paperwork pile, I was able to regularly peer out of the window at the snowy garden.  I watched the traffic at the tables: wrens; blue, great & coal tits; finches; thrushes & blackbirds; a fluffed-up flock of hedge sparrows; a few unhappy, hunched starlings;  the cheery bob of a little pied wagtail.  Laden with a wide variety of much-needed food, the table & feeders were busy. 

But on pausing to look up from the steaming washing-up bowl a few minutes later I was surprised to find the area oddly silent, eerily deserted, bereft of birds.  It couldn’t be the cats; along with the dog they were tucked up in front of whichever woodburner took their fancy, fair-weather felines who in spite of their Maine winter heritage did not fancy a foray in the freezing snow, no matter how many tasty feathered morsels might potentially be on offer. 

snowfeb09-084I realised with a prickle of thrilled annoyance that there was a new visitor to the garden dining room – but not in search of nuts, seeds or scraps of fat & cheese.  No: this visitor intended to feast on the diminutive guests, themselves – but luckily they weren’t daft enough to chance anything with such a fearsome predator so close by.  Swaying with difficulty in the slender branches of the willows which grow adjacent to the wildlife pond, was an enormous buzzard; the closest I’ve seen it alight in relation to the house.   I rapped on the window to deter its unwanted attentions.  With a soundless flap of the massive wings, the huge hunter disappeared in a long glide back across to her nest in the woods – doubtless, to ‘raptorous’ applause from the rest of the garden’s feathered residents…!

Meanwhile, as for the ret of the day….?  Fairly quiet….if you can count a burst pipe in the early hours of the morning, underneath the kitchen sink, as uneventful; thankfully though our gallant plumber actually walked down the drive to come to my aid, struggling through snowdrifts to repair the problem.  Ah well; the kitchen needed a ‘spring clean’, anyway…..*sigh*

About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Diary, Environment, February 2009, Life, Locality, MindBodySpirit, Nature, Smallholding. Bookmark the permalink.

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