There must have been thirty starlings, mainly youngsters, in the garden at my son’s home today. The great tits and blue tits are very tame and happy to peck away at the feeding stations even when you are very close. Robins, thrushes and blackbirds are regular visitors, along with the many sparrows, the inevitable pigeons, magpies and doves and the clever jackdaws that fly in. I often see the wrens, I think I spotted a dunnock, and there are buzzards, red kites and the local heron flying over daily.
The heron can see the pond, but it was constructed to make it almost impossible for it to land, which is just as well given the monsters that lurk in its depths. My son keeps some rather large sturgeon as well a plethora of other fish. The other birds bathe in the corner of the stream overhung with plants and the kites sail over, watching.
There have been a lot of birds over the past couple of weeks. Not ‘just’ birds… they are always there… but ones you seldom see, or that were very tame… or just a sheer delight. There were cuckoos, woodpeckers and a tree mouse in the woods, plus this little guy, caught on zoom. I’ve seen peacocks and swallows, ibises, robins, grouse and an owl. And birds have a habit of making me think.
I suppose because they are wild, free creatures, that when they come so close within our lives, or seem to allow us into their world for a moment, we are touching nature in a way our towns and cities seldom let us do. They wake us from our complacency with their presence and song and remind us of the changing seasons of the year. In general their lives are much shorter than ours and they use them busily, especially this time of year when the young need to be fed and educated.
It has been lovely watching the young family of starlings with their parents, from the first, curious visits to the bird table, where, still yellow around the beak, the babies sat open mouthed and waited for their parents to feed them, to their growing confidence as adolescents, still in the family group, still under the watchful eye of parents who encourage them now to fend for themselves. They were clumsy when they first came, flying awkwardly and frequently falling off their perches. Now they are confident, though they still stick together and several families seem to be merging into a larger flock.
Watching the young birds find their feet… and their wings… has been a joy this spring. They were made to fly… streamlined, graceful and swift in flight. Yet leaving the egg, instinct or not, is something they have to do under their own steam, breaking out of the shell when the moment is right, into a world unknown. Ii it a scary place for them or an adventure? Is it fear or curiosity that they feel?
I think it was C.S Lewis who wrote that it has to be hard for a bird to leave the egg, but it would be an awful lot harder learn to fly if it stayed in there. He went on to compare human beings to eggs… saying that we cannot remain eggs forever, even perfectly good ones; we either change, or go bad. And to be honest, there can be few things worse than what is locked inside a decomposing egg.
Once our shell is cracked, though, there can be no going back… we must break out, and breathe the air… and the egg is empty of anything that will nourish us. The only way forward means a dramatic change in everything we have known so far. There will be predators, there will be the risk of the unknown to face with ecxcitement or fear. Yet it is our nature too to fly. We are children of the sun and our soul has wings; and while we may be awkward and clumsy as we grow, the heavens are waiting for us to spread our wings and fly.