I live in a central London, in a flat with (what the estate agent described as) a ‘terrace’. We don’t get much wildlife beyond the odd disinterested pigeon, but this winter we were visited by a blackbird and it was lovely.
I’ve been working from home a lot lately, and the kitchen table I work at looks out over the terrace, the brick wall of the building next to ours, and a chunk of sky. It’s the sky that normally draws me, and sometimes the reflections of the sunset against the glass windows of the buildings opposite, but this winter the blackbird gave me something far more energetic to look at.
It first arrived when the weather was particularly cold, and landed in the planter we grow herbs in. It pecked about for a bit and found somethings it liked, didn’t stay long, and flew away.
This visit was enough for Sarah to put some cereal in the planter for the next visit, and then nothing happened for a couple of weeks. And then it was back, and when it found the cereal, it got super excited. Which is when I realised our mistake.
For the next week or so the blackbird visited our terrace and worked its way through all our plant pots, digging violently to at least half way down some of the pots, flinging soil everywhere. After a few days, Sarah went to restore order and replaced the soil. This was like fuel to the flame, as with fresh soil came fresh bugs for the bird to find, and the frenzy continued.
In terms of feeding, we had learnt our lesson. The weather was still cold, so we put raisins and seeds and a saucer of water on the terrace (not on the plants!). The bird found this all quite fast, and would take a few days to work through the offerings, and the saucer became a marker for how much digging the bird had done: if you could see the saucer and it wasn’t full of soil, it was a good day!
One of the nicest effects of all this was hearing the bird sing. Previously we had heard the birds singing at dusk and at night, but now our bird ocassionally sat on the handrail of our terrace and sang.
Sitting at home alone, I felt companionship and wished again that we lived in an environment that allowed for responsible pet ownership.
Now spring is springing our bird doesn’t visit so much anymore: we get perhaps a brief touchdown on its way to richer pickings. And today I put out the last of the snack pack of seeds Sarah bought it from the local Sainsbury’s and refilled the saucer for what may be the last time. I’m tempted, though, to find a slightly more permanent water solution and see if we can’t nurture an ongoing bird drop off point on the terrace. These urban touches with nature are very grounding and incredibly easy to achieve. Try it if you can.