Thursday, 5 January 2017


 So sitting in the garden the other day with the daughter, she's 9 going on 21 and to be honest its all quite scary. But I was quite happy watching the feeders as the birds came and went - I had 30 Greenfinch at one point!! I'm not sure I have ever seen that many before, along with a cloud of Goldfinch a few Chaffinch and the odd Coal Tit it was all quite an enjoyable time. But then as a complete break from the accepted protocol a voice piped up ' theres some birds up there ', i'm not sure what was more shocking, the fact that Mol had looked up from her iPad or that she had noticed that there is another world out there. Im guessing that the iPad had either lost wifi or the battery had died therefore creating an almost meltdown in her world, which however temporary, had forced her into mine. ( I do her a bit of a disservice as she twitched the Red-backed Shrike in Coulsdon a few years back with me and I hasten to add the only binoculars we had were her Barbie specials, oh and she managed the Hoopoe on Farthing Downs which is more than some of the birders I know!! And not long ago stood with me outside the Virgin building while the Alpine Swift put on a no show ). The birds she had noticed were a flock of 7 Redwing, they have been present for most of the Winter now and are slowing getting through the Symphoricarpos berries in the garden. But its what she said next that most struck a chord ' Daddy, there aren't many birds are there ' and with this she disappeared into the house looking for either wifi or a power socket.

Mol and the Barbie binoculars

' Aren't many birds ' she had said, and this got me thinking back to the 70's when I was a mere whipper snapper and doing a garden bird watch. Yes, amazingly it's not a modern phenomenon and I had my pad, pencil and some vintage binoculars that had only recently given up the ghost. But on one Garden Watch in the 70's I do remember not getting a visit from a Greenfinch and yet here I was in 2017 with 30 in front of me. Were there more birds then? I couldn't honestly remember and as you know i don't keep records so couldn't check anywhere. So if all else fails resort to an age old tradition - ask an old person. So I did. I spoke to Mols nan who lives up in New Addington and after listening to her bleat on about her ailments and how young people are so rude these days a moment of clarity struck and she explained that she remembers huge flocks of ' Sparras ' everywhere and some mornings the garden would be full of bird song; a natural symphony that just seemed to set the day up. But now all she hears is the odd Starling if she is lucky.
     A quick search on utube reveals several videos of Sparrows in London and local farmlands. ' they are a plague ' cites one London Park warden as the video shows dining tables covered in House Sparrows and of course there is the ubiquitous videos of pigeons being fed in Trafalgar Square by crapped on tourists. 
     But what happens when Mol has children of her own? Will they say the same to her and if they do how will she reply? Am I witnessing the birth of generational amnesia? When the older generation decide to move on to the Strictly come dancing ballroom in the sky and its left to us to explain what it used to be like what will we say? Im guessing the easiest option will be to send them to Eastern Europe on a short break, cleverly disguised under the title of a tech detox weekend, somewhere that has remained poor so the local farmers couldn't afford pesticides and insecticides and the soils remained healthy and lush. Somewhere where the big chemical giants don't subsidise their poisonous cocktails to sterilise the land leaving the farmers to become more reliant on chemicals to keep the whole show turning over while the majority share holders rub their hands together and pat each other on the back. But then again that would leave them having to listen to the god awful song of the Corn Bunting banging on and grinding in their ears, a fate I wouldn't wish on anyone. So maybe when I'm asked what it was like I will reply " It's always been like this - ooh look Pigeon with a limp "

Gawd awful racket bird

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