The dawn choral society is practising heroically every morning, polishing their performance, each songster shaking off the dregs of winter- night chill and running through their scales, repeating short phrases until they are perfect to their ears.
Naturally such sterling performances require a good breakfast. I can barely keep up with the demand for food in the feeders. I currently maintain 5 large seed feeders and 3 more for peanuts , two dedicated to the fatball officianados, plus two large tables and a ground feeder, every one of which I fill in the morning and top up late afternoon for the late supper crowd. It has almost reached a point where a third fill is required after the early morning rush.
I am richly rewarded for my efforts to feed the bird population of Surrey however. This morning I stood at my bedroom window, which is a mere foot away from the branches of the feeding tree, and so is level with the queueing area for birds waiting their turn to scoff. I watched a myriad of chattering blue tits bicker over their place in the queue, only to be scolded into behaving by the arrival of two great tits, who had obviously got out of bed on the wrong side. They, in turn were flummoxed by the arrival of the long tailed tits.
This was my first sighting this year of these wonderful, apricot chested puffballs. They travel in small, excitable packs, full of exuberance and just knowing how beautiful they are, what a spectacle they make as they dart and dip in complicated synchronised flying patterns, in, round, over, through the wintry weave of bare branches, feeding, gossiping, showing off. They bring a smile to my face, a lift to my heart.
Suddenly they scurried off and all was quiet for a split second and then I saw why – a pair of majestic, beautifully plumed jays flew in, settled, preened and darted looks in all directions, warning off any bird reckless enough to approach the tree while they were in residence. Large and serene, they knew they would remain unchallenged – a good job as, though impressive when sitting on the branch, they were ungainly and awkward as they attempted to feed on the nuts. Thus are the mighty cut down to size!
With a backward glance, as if to make sure that no bird had witnessed their less than stellar performance, these too left the tree and all was calm. My peripheral vision picked up movement. The dogs are out, I thought, and was about to move away, knowing that the show was over, when I realised that none of our dogs slink quite like this.
I had to ask myself the question – what am I actually seeing here? It took a second or two for me to realise that it was a beautiful, glossy vixen. She moved with hushed but potent energy along the top of the low wall, hoovering up the scatter of seeds spilled from above, and the small pile that remained on the tray, left by the ground feeding birds, possibly hoping it would be there for elevenses. No such luck today. The vixen, almost without breaking step, had cleaned up, then, seeing that there was nothing more for her, she left, with no backward glance. Poised, magnificent, she had taken what she needed and moved on.
Seconds later the chattering blue tits returned, the day’s normal pattern resumed. My private showing was over for the day.