Sunday 18 February 2024

Less Top Gun - more Top Bum!


 
One white smear on the ground outside my front door. A few small grey splashes on Joey SX’s windscreen.

Small time poopers but sure signs: Shitting Season has begun.

On census night in 2022 I decided to do my own survey of the local population. Walking around this patch of land I counted seventy two rook nests; magnificent creations, huge and sturdy, swaying high in the soaring old ash trees.

Years ago, when I lived on the shores of Lough Corrib, there was a house a mile away, surrounded by crows nest. As I drove past each day I felt a macabre shiver run through me, and gave thanks that I didn’t live so close to that constant cacophonous crawking.

‘Couldn’t live there.’ I thought to myself. ‘It’d just be way too depressing.’

Life is constantly surprising, and clich├ęs such as ‘Needs must, when the devil drives’ exist for a reason.

In the Spring of 2021, recovering from a life-threatening illness, major surgery and my second house eviction in three years, I had no savings, was too unwell to work, and even if I’d had money, there were no places to rent post-Covid anyway.

It was one of my darkest hours, yet the universe provided: I was rescued by a friend who offered me this place as a refuge.

As I moved my boxes into my new home I stopped to look up at the rook-ridden trees. An excellent friend who was helping me move gave wise counsel:

“You’ll have to either phase ‘em out or get into ‘em, because they’re going nowhere.”

Between March and June, when Shitting Season is at full splat, you cannot help but feel besieged. By then the birds have built their stupendous nests and hatched their babies, and any feeble-minded notion of sharing the patch with feathery friends disappears.

Any hippyish souls who insist the cwooty wooty birdies are not attacking on purpose, I challenge to stand out there for five minutes.

It’s made extremely clear that humans who live here are nothing but invaders in their territory. We are not welcome, so near to their chicks.

Both our cars become covered in guano, to the point where windscreen washers and wipers do not suffice. Truly Disgusting with a capital D. My front door and windows are splattered and squelched with shit.

In order to hit the exterior of my gaff, deliberate and highly skilful feats of dive-bombing are performed.

Last year the Tom Cruise of the local rook community managed to score a direct lumpy gooey hit on the little square window in my front door. To achieve this, they’d have had to fly low and then shoot up vertically at the very last minute.

Not so much Top Gun as Top Bum.

During Shitting Season we are considered Legitimate Targets if we dare walk anywhere in the vicinity, which proves problematic as I pay my rent by gardening.

On rare and wondrous blue sky Spring days, I am to be found with the hood up on an old anorak, watering or weeding as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Hurrying inside feeling relieved that I escaped their pooh, I discover - in a thoroughly unhygienic and squelchy way - the vile goo on the back lower leg of my jeans.

How the hell did they manage that?
Yuk yuk bloody yuk.
And Grrrr.

Phase ‘em out or get in to ‘em, eh? I dare you to achieve either during Peak Shit, but when their babies have fully fledged, sometime around the end of July, they shut the fuck up.

 

Oh.

 

Shit free silence.

 

A few weeks of dozing off in my chair outside, delirious in the afternoon sunshine, bewitched only by the buzz of bees.

From Autumnal to Vernal equinox, Chas’ Caff is open for business. A restaurant that pops-up wherever I live, it supplies seed each morning to the local bird community.

I tried the bird-feeder tree hangers, but within minutes the seed was all spilled out by clever crows, so I gauge how much seed my local gang can chow daily, and throw less on the ground, leaving nothing for the rats.

A constant throughout my life,I glean such joy from this simple activity. I’ve about fifteen hedge sparrows, some blue tits, yellow tits (no great or crested though) and two redbreast robins, who both fly in to my call:

“Mister Robiiiiiiiin….”

 There are finches of many colours, and Mr and Mrs. Blackbird, who delight in taking a bath in the water bowls I put out.  On occasion my group is joined by a plump pheasant, stunning in his rainbow finery.

Last Spring a pair of collared doves visited daily, and in Autumn there appeared five more, the image of the adult collareds, save for a lack of collars.

My wise friend explained that these were juveniles; maybe even one or two broods fed by the pair of adults who’d dined at my caff. Indeed, as this Winter progressed into Spring, I saw the gradual arrival of greeny-black collars growing on the young ones, so that they were becoming hard to tell apart from their parents.

Late arrivals at Chas' Caff: adult collared dove, young 'un with only a tiny bit of collar, a few sparrows and a rook...

They show their auld folks no respect. There is mayhem aplenty as all seven fight over the food. The sparrows seems more placid and peace-loving, while the tits and robins are vicious, often spending more time attacking each other than eating the seed.

The whole bunch have developed some kind of pavlovian response to the sound of my kitchen tap. They know I will go outside a few times as I clean out the fire and empty the ash, so they wait until I start the dishes to plunge down and feast.

Recently I’ve noticed that they’re all waiting in the shrubs as I emerge in the morning. Now that it’s light by eight, it appears to them that breakfast is late, their circadian rhythms frustrated by my adherence to human time.

Much as I love my birdy crew, I’m not sure that I’d choose to live surrounded by seventy two rook nests.

However, doing that has been a revelation. I’ve happily adapted to a situation that, in the past, I’d sworn I couldn’t cope with.

Life is constantly surprising. At the tender range of 63, I’m delighted to discover I’m capable of far greater acceptance than I ever imagined.

Where other creatures’ lives interact with my own, I now know that all is possible, as long as you don’t try to rule the roost.



©Charlie Adley
18.02.2024