Birds (50 excerpt)

The osprey nest in the Highlands of Scotland continues to thrive. The father catches and delivers copious amounts of fish for his wife and three babies. The chicks are now over a month old and have mostly lost their down and gained their pin feathers. They’re tentatively stretching and, on occasion, flapping their prototype wings. It’s such a happy family. The mother still broods them if the weather is bad, but they’re really far too big to all fit underneath her now. Sometimes they just manage to get their heads under her body leaving the rest of them sticking out in the rain. My insider knowledge of the Scottish nest helps me imagine what’s going on with my resident blackbird pair, who are currently raising their second brood in a bush right next to the house. I watched in delight as both parents brought worms and food to the nest in April, and now I have the pleasure of watching again as they bring up their second lot, mid-June. I can clearly hear the cries of the chicks. There must be three or more. The nice thing about it is that the father blackbird and I have reached an understanding. Every time a magpie comes close he releases a loud alarm call which I always hear since our back door and windows are permanently open, and I immediately rush outside and clap my hands. For some reason this terrifies the magpie but not the blackbird, who doesn’t even blink and stays exactly where he is. We exchange a knowing glance and stand for a few seconds in mutual satisfaction — he on a branch, me on the grass — before I go back inside and he resumes his business collecting worms and defending his territory. Sometimes he sings a beautiful, varied song which totally delights my soul and I stop still and listen in rapt attention. I try and get the kids to pay attention and listen too… but that’s a rare victory. They’re usually glued to their screens, headphones on, unwilling to even press the pause button.

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