Watch the Birdie!

When my husband is at dialysis and the weather is mild I like to open windows at the front and back of our wee apartment to blow some fresh air through. I can’t do this when Sem is at home, as he feels the cold quite quickly, whereas I am a polar bear – open windows make me happy. Today as I write this, there’s just enough of a breeze to freshen the air in here, with a little splash of rain now and then in between bursts of sunshine. Lovely!

Sounds are carried in as well, on this fresh cool breeze. There’s something which I would swear sounds like the noise zebras make when they are startled; seeing as how we have no zebras in the far north of Scotland I suspect it is actually a puppy barking a few streets over. Behind us, shielded by other houses and yards, is the main road going north/south so there’s some traffic noise, though distant. We’d lived here for months before I realized how close we were to the main road. There’s a football (soccer) field somewhere over there too, so we often hear cheering on evenings and weekends.


Ever-present is the sound of seagulls. When I lived in Pennsylvania the only time I heard seagulls was when we went to the beach (or ‘down the shore’ as anyone from southeastern PA would say). Seagulls’ cries were the sound of summer, heat, sand and waves, to me. Now, I can’t imagine life without the varied calls of the gulls, whether on the wing or perched on rooftops. It’s an everyday sound that I hardly notice anymore. What I do miss where we live now, though, is the sound of the sea. In our former village we could see the sea from our kitchen door, and often hear it roar and surge when the wind was roughing up the waves, but here we are a tiny bit farther away from the water and it is no longer part of the daily soundtrack of life.


This time of year we’re treated to another sound, that of fledglings of various kinds demanding to be fed. We are delighted that the goldfinches are back again this year – it took a long time for them to find us but we lured them in with sunflower hearts and niger seeds. Now we have multiple sets of parents with many fledglings between them and boy, are they in need of sustenance! The parents, I mean. The wee pudgy fledglings are doing just fine, and have been running their parents ragged for a while judging by their round tight bellies. They sit on the shed roof or the clothesline, peeping and fluttering their wings and flitting back and forth doing the ‘FEED ME!’ dance while their parents gobble sunflower hearts like there’s no tomorrow. This morning we noticed that the babies have discovered the seeds on the ground, too, so rather than constantly pestering their exhausted parents they actually all just gathered on the spot and had a good tuck in to the sunflower goodness. Luckily our cat was indoors at that point, but I hope they have learned to be vigilant, because Smartie is not the only cat in these parts!

Two goldfinch parents, three hungry babies.

The goldies aren’t the only visitors. We’ve had parents and fledglings of the sparrow, green finch, jackdaw, rook and starling varieties, too, equally vocal and equally voracious. I suspect in a month or two we’ll have a new young seagull or two as well. Our resident Seagull Mama, Frankie, has trained us to throw food to her from the kitchen window; one of her youngsters, Charlie, has been strong-arming (strong-winging?) us for the past year for goodies, too. He would stand by the window and cry piteously until we finally threw something out for him. Charlie liked bread until he discovered leftover meat – after that he began sulking if only bread was offered. But we haven’t seen him in a few weeks so I expect Frankie has finally told him it was time to make his own way in the world, especially since she’s probably already incubating the next batch of siblings. She was out there being courted (right there on the front green, shamelessly) over the last month, so Charlie has had to pack his little seagull bags and skedaddle.

Jackdaw parent and ‘children’.

What we haven’t seen are pigeon fledglings even though we easily have a dozen pigeon visitors, daily, and while we have seen some blackbirds and robins around, we haven’t seen any of their babies either. Same with blue tits and coal tits; the parents are around, certainly, but no offspring. Still, it’s nice to have such a variety of bird life just outside our windows. We do miss the other small birds that used to visit the feeders at our former home, but they either don’t come this far north or they just haven’t found us. Linnets, bullfinches, waxwings (stopping on their way by when they migrate), wrens, dunnocks and thrushes are all missing from our garden here. The good news is that the woman who now lives in our former home is also an avid gardener with a fondness for birds, so I am hopeful that our wee feathered friends are still coming to visit her as well, since she seems to have picked up where we left off.

In this moment I hear one seagull shouting at another, the tiny cheeps and peeps of busy sparrows in a nearby bush, the chuckchuck sound of jackdaws, and one raspy rook. When the goldfinches return there will be sounds of squabbling adults and hungry fledglings but for now the other birds rule the roost, so to speak. A logging truck just rumbled past, and there’s that zebrapuppy sound again.

Starling and almost-hidden, ravenous fledgling.

In a sometimes noisy life it is good to enjoy the peace, punctuated only by distant human sounds and the closer, more welcome sounds of nature.

Deb Segelitz

Deb Segelitz was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and is astounded to find herself living in the Scottish Highlands, sharing life with her husband, a Highlander she stumbled across purely by chance on a blog site. They own a small business restoring and selling vintage fountain pens, which allows Deb to set her own schedule and have time for photography, writing and spontaneous car rides in the countryside. She is grateful to the readers of ANC for accepting her into the North State fold.

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