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Spring, cats and an angry blackbird

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 18 Mar 2013 at 12:01 PM

This winter seems to be lasting forever, but the birds know that spring is on the way. Pigeons (Columba palumbus), who always start early, already have young ones in the nest as seen from discard shells on lawns and pathways. Other birds are toying with nesting materials, picking up moss and plant stems to examine their suitability for building. The singing is noticeably louder – robins, dunnocks, thrushes and chaffinches are now all in full voice and their songs fill the air from dawn to dusk.

 

The blackbirds are becoming increasingly territorial and just the other morning I was startled by a furious clamour directly outside the window. Looking out, there were two pairs of blackbirds engaged in fighting, angrily screeching as they pecked and clawed at one another. The fight ended as suddenly as it began, with one pair retreating over the wall to who knows where.

In the garden, we are trying to keep the neighbourhood cats out. I don’t really mind cats – they are pleasing to stroke and I enjoy meowing at them and having them meow back – but I do object to their using the garden as a toilet and having to clear away the resulting mess. It is distressing to find dead birds on the lawn, the only damage being a bite to the back of the neck and some feathers lost in the struggle. Then the bird, now dead and giving no more sport, is discarded. The high walls here help to keep the cats out, but they have a route from next door which leads them to the shed roof, from where they can jump down and do their worst. The current method of deterring them is a barrier of spiky Pyracantha prunings on the roof and, so far, it seems to be working. I don’t want to be mean to the cats, but then I don’t want them to use the garden as both toilet and slaughtering ground.

Before we hit on the idea of the Pyracantha prunings, we would open the window and shout, sending the cat running. If a cat was actually stalking a bird, we’d give chase. At other times, we’d hear a bird’s chattering alarm call and look out to see what was going on and it was on one such occasion that I saw something wonderfully surreal. The alarm call was being shouted out by the male blackbird who frequents the garden and courtyard. He is used to us and quite relaxed in our presence, so when Karl went out to expel the cat, the blackbird wasn’t afraid and didn’t fly away. Instead, I was treated to the dreamlike spectacle of the cat speeding towards the shed, closely followed by a man and a furious blackbird, the man loping across the lawn with the blackbird flying alongside him. This strange vision has impressed itself on my memory and each time I replay it, I cannot help but smile.  

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