27 January 2017

January

Magpies hop around the winter lawn - their tiny black eyes looking hither and thither for food or danger. They bully their avian cousins - blackbirds, thrushes, wood-pigeons and sparrows. None are as sharp-witted as those sleek magpies in their distinctive plumage - like dinner jackets or military uniforms.

Despite their intelligence,  they cannot access the little wooden feeding station that hangs from a branch of our ornamental sumac tree. There the hedge sparrows and blue tits rule supreme - busily selecting seeds before fluttering off to consume them. Back and forth they go.

A crow caws from above the columnar fat ball container. Balanced precariously on a thin branch, he seems frustrated that he can't push his gnarled beak further down for another nutritious snack. The blue tits do not share this frustration. With wiry little toes holding on, they peck rapidly at the grey spheres before darting off.

The letter box clatters and something heavy lands on our coir doormat. Perhaps a magazine or a catalogue. Outside in a bitterly cold midday there is a flash of fluorescent orange as the postman continues with his round. A bespectacled fat woman in a grey fur coat strolls down the hill. She is wreathed in misty cigarette smoke.

A black and white cat hurries across our road between parked cars. The air is still. No movement in the leafless trees. A thick layer of cloud conceals the blue firmament and the golden orb above where silver aeroplanes and kaleidoscopic  kites fly. Down here the suburbs shiver in an empty monochrome haze. Like blood, nearly all colour has been leached away.

We are waiting for February to arrive. Fabulous February.

26 comments:

  1. I've a couple of families of the wonderful magpies that hang around my cabin...they turn up on time every afternoon, along with the kookaburras, butcher birds, currawongs and a couple of crows. The crows are at the end of the pecking order...they're very polite...and just wait their turn.

    They all know the time, and they make sure that I'm aware of it, too. God help me if I'm running late!

    Each afternoon around 4 pm they get meat scraps. When I'm cutting up the meat for Remy and Shama's dinner, the birds get their share.

    The birds get more than just "scraps". They dine well, but they're not dependent upon me, and I don't want them to be. However, I love having them around, too. They are part of my "family".

    Remy and Shama are used to their feathered friends making all the noise as they tuck their napkins in around their feathered necks, and they take very little notice of them.

    My two cats are indoor cats...and they sometimes will sit for a brief while watching the birds on the other side of the screen door - less than six inches away - but then they just shrug their furry shoulders and walk away.

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    1. By the way, in my blog I've given you the correct translation to the misguided information you received from Rose. You sure Rose is her name, and not Daisy?

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    2. I just went over to Kitchen Connection and saw your response. Rose even has a couple of rose tattoos - just in case she forgets her name.

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    3. And this is my response on KC, too....

      "Who knows? Over in Perth...being on the other side of the world, that might be the local lingo.

      Perhaps, this is from where they adopted it....(and, I guess, some call "batons", "dongers").

      It is true...we are a weird log here Down Under...and proud of it! :)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4-7UObXxeI "

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  2. I see magpies all over the Heath at this time of year. I don't know whether I notice them more because there are fewer other birds, or whether they really are more active or more present now. January IS a weirdly colorless time, though your language described it all beautifully.

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    1. Thank you Steve. If we are patient, spring will come.

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  3. Nice picture you paint there YP. Magpies are not my favourite bird, mainly because they are such nest-robbers of little birds. I agree they are in smart livery but luckily we only have a few round here.
    I shall not be doing the Bird Garden Bird Watch this week end. I always think that the results are so inaccurate as to make them pretty useless as real information. Instead I shall continue to watch the long tailed tits making a pretty pattern with their body stripes as they hang on the peanuts, the tits as they manage effortlessly to gobble up the coconut and the robib eating the mealworms. And like you I shay goodbye to January and look forward to February and whatever it throws our way. At least it is a short month and it will be March before we know where we are.

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  4. Two spelling mistakes - a robib is not a new species - of course I meant to put robin. And I am nor shaying anything, I am saying it! Sorry (E and OE)

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    1. People "shay" things when they're drunk or tipsy. Are you sure you haven't been at the cooking sherry again Mrs Weaver?

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  5. Yes, the crows are near the bottom of the pecking order here too. Just above the kookaburras. It's the lorikeets who run the show. Woe betide any crow or kooka who dares to try for his Aldi chunk of cheap what we used to call Windsor sausage - can't remember what we call it now. But the loris have to have their fill of birdseed and bread first, thank you very much. And don't the crows get yelled at if they dare venture too near before the lorikeets give their permission!
    Magpies , too, must wait their turn, but most tend to give up and try else where, sine the loris spend much of their day in our tiny backyard.

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    1. Sounds like your lorikeets are more intelligent than the magpies. I guess it also helps to have those nutcracker beaks! Thanks for calling by Rozzie. Next time warn me you're coming and I'll make a pot of tea.

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  6. An excellent piece of writing Mr Pudding. I was delighted to see two robins yesterday, bringing a welcome splash of colour to the drab outdoors.

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    1. It was your post that triggered this piece of creative writing Sue.

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  7. Lovely, evocative writing, YP.

    I had to look up magpie on Wikipedia, because I wasn't completely sure what they look like. I don't think we have them here. We do have crows. I videotaped three of them one day on my walk. One walked toward me sternly; it's the closest I've been to one. He looked VERY military, you are right! He looked ticked off, too. I escaped without incident, but only because he had to get back to his bullying of the other two crows.

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    1. In northern England we sometimes refer to women as "birds". Clearly that crow was checking you out, getting ready to bully you until he realised that you were the size of a juvenile ostrich.

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    2. "Small head, long neck, large eyes, large body, and two toes per foot, one of which has a 10 cm long claw ... and fast" ... how did you know?

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  8. I haven't had a magazine delivered in years. I decided they were way too expensive and formulaic and I stand by that but what a luxury. I miss magazines.
    I hope February delivers on it's promise

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    1. One was called "Good Housekeeping" - a monthly magazine. Our daughter gave Shirley a subscription as an Xmas gift. The other was the Women's Institute magazine which members receive as part of their membership.

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  9. February may bring you relief from winter where you live but I have more time . I'm not thinking about pleasanter weather.

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    1. I guess Red Deer feels like the Caribbean compared with the times you spent in the far north of Canada.

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    2. Oh I wish there could be that much difference!

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  10. A delightful post Mr. Pudding. I love watching the birds on our various bird feeders. A couple of nights ago when I let the dogs out for their last wee, there was a rat ensconced in the quarrel proof feeder, enjoying the peanuts. The schnauzer knew it was there as he kept looking up at the small tree. I went out with the torch when I spotted ratty and it dropped down almost on the dog's head, who still didn't manage to catch it before it escaped next door!! There was a yorkie a foot behind too........both dogs bred for catching rats...both useless!!

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    1. Are there training schools where pampered parlour pooches can go to relearn basic behaviours? "Today's lesson - how to sniff out a rat and tear it to pieces... next week - biting burglar's ankles and how to make puppies."

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  11. Beautiful prose. Thank you so much.

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  12. We have quite a collection of birds that visit our garden sparrows, blue tits, robins, crows, doves, wood pigeons and their disreputable city cousins. And they get along quite well, including the magpies which I believe only become really aggressive during the breeding season.

    Incidentally, this weekend is the Big Garden Birdwatch.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.