Birds I have known

I am a city girl, and proud.

I can name all the stations on the Hammersmith and City line – a fact that has done me precisely no use whatsoever in 28 years…

I find it difficult to go to sleep in silence – I need the soft rumble of cars to lullaby me into urban dreamland…

The closest I come to being able to identify a tree is: “Ooh. That is a tree” – I can’t get any more detailed than that, unless it is a monkey tree. No, sorry, a monkey AND a tree – I can differentiate a monkey from a tree. I don’t know what a monkey tree is. In fact I suspect I may have just made it up.

My idea of communion with nature is a nice afternoon in the park, and possibly a paddling pool, and the stroke of a friendly cat. ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’ means to me simply being able to distinguish the things of nature that can kill me (large holes, ladybirds, buses, brightly coloured fungi, lions) and the things that can’t (flowers, wool).

So, all in all, I haven’t really had that much of a need to tell one bird from another, really.

I mean, I suppose I could muddle through if there was a giant angry duck standing over me, because that would fall under the things of nature that kill you/things that can’t rule, above, and also because ‘a duck’ is pretty high on my list of “Birds I can recognise without any help or a book or the internet or anything”.

Birds I can recognise without any help or a book or the internet or anything

  1. A duck: Probably only your run-of-the-mill duck, or course, although I could probably pick a funny-looking one out of a line-up if it said ‘quack’ to me.
  2. An ostrich: Which I recognise mainly because they look like really ugly llamas. Or like supermodels, but with large arses – big eyes, long necks, legs that go on forever, they’re only a huge donk away from a being Somewhere’s Next Top Model.
  3. A rubber duck: Possibly connected to my ability to spot the other kind. Although if they were outside their normal habitat of ‘bath’ (not ‘Bath’, the historic spa near Bristol, ‘bath’ as in ‘tub’) I might get a little confused.
  4. Big Bird from Sesame Street.
  5. A Neagle: There were lots of Neagles in Scotland, although their usual habitat seemed to be ‘Far Away’, and they were mainly recognisable by their jagged wings. I’m not sure I could recognise one close up, unless he was squawking and pecking my ears out with his sharp, pointy beak, and scooping them up with his jagged wings like those things you get attached to dustpans sometimes, shouting “I am a NEAGLE! Mwa ha ha etc! Etc, I say!!!”.
  6. A pigeon: I am from London. I can recognise a rat with wings when I see one.
  7. A spuggy: Sparrows are small and brown, which makes them quite like mice in many ways, and also poo, except they have wings. I think that we are all glad that neither mice nor poo have wings.
  8. Magpies Plural because magpies are good in sets of two and above. If you see just the one, bad things will happen to you and you will probably die, horribly. The only scientifically verified method to avoid bad things and horrible death involves turning around three times and saluting.
    The magpie issue is black and white that way.
  9. Tits: Blue Tits look a bit like pale spuggies except with a bit of blue on, and Great Tits look quite similar, but not blue, and a lot more kind of rounded, and perky.

This is all well and good. Due to a childhood immersed in Blue Peter annuals, I could probably also spot a dodo, a pterodactyl and The Wright Brothers (MB: not neccesarily all birds) without too much difficulty, I’ll just never need to.

My current problem is that there’s a bird in the back garden that I don’t know the name of, and it’s funny-looking, and I’m curious, but aren’t quite sure how to find out, so:

Birds I can’t recognise without help from a book or the internet or anything

  1. The one in next door’s back garden: It was black and white, right, with a splash of bright bright red on its head, and red somewhere near the bottom of it too. Maybe its feet.
  2. To sum up, it was black and white, with red all over.
  3. But not a newspaper. Or a nun falling downstairs. Or half a panda. Or a zebra on the blob.

And it kind of scampered, if that helps. And there’s some kind of buried rural instinct in me telling me that it might be a woodpecker. Well, buried rural instinct and the fact that it was pecking at some wood.

But it can’t be a woodpecker, can it? Do you get woodpeckers in London? Do you get any kind of birds that aren’t pigeons?

And, now I think of it, I haven’t seen a spuggie in ages. Where have all the spuggies gone? Do you have them? Are they dead? Can I put them on the dodo list and forget about them?

Also, if it is a woodpecker, should I try and catch it? Are they very rare? Do they poo golden eggs? Or sneeze chocolate, or something? Will it make my fortune?

If I do catch it, will it peck all my wood? Everything we own is from IKEA, it is all made of wood. But perhaps that is how I could lure it into the house, by promising it cheap IKEA pine. But what if it doesn’t like cheap pine, and can sniff out the chipboard beneath?

It is a complex issue.

I don’t think I will be a birdwatcher after all.

It seems like a very complex and worrysome hobby.

I will take up something soothy and calming, like The Luge.