In a garden full of bird song, certain sounds tend to stand out, such as the somewhat plaintive call that the collared doves make as they glide in to land on the TV aerial or the gable of Stable Cottage.
At this time of year, of course, there is quite a bit of background hubbub from various nests. Although they are difficult to see, their presence is indicated by the urgent cheeps of the fledglings within. Parent birds can be seen flashing about, their beaks laden with whatever they can find to feed their demanding and voracious brood. The combination of bird sounds is very relaxing, having an almost soporific effect during the long hot days we are enjoying at the moment.
Such a mellifluous aural backdrop can so easily be shattered by any raucous intrusion. It has to be said, this usually comes from the gangsta jackdaws, but today it was a blackbird. The alarm call of the blackbird is frequently heard in any garden – they seem to be easily spooked. Today, however, it was different, being more or less continuous for quite a few minutes.
Going to investigate the source of this consternation, I saw a male blackbird on the electricity line that runs parallel to the road outside our front door. In the high branches of the hawthorn tree on the field boundary sat a magpie, and it was quite obvious that the blackbird was hurling abuse at it in an attempt to see it off. The magpie treated all this with complete disdain, eventually leaving its perch to fly into the hawthorn tree on the boundary of our garden. As soon as the magpie took off, the blackbird gave chase, but of course it is no match for the much bigger magpie.
Its anguished alarm call brought a female blackbird to the hawthorn, and the two of them sat there on different branches, keeping up a duet of urgent calling, observed from a respectful distance by half a dozen sparrows. Quite obviously, the magpie was somewhere in the tree and presumably it was ransacking the blackbirds’ nest. At this time of year, no doubt the nest contained young fledglings, a substantial meal for a magpie. A couple of minutes later, both blackbirds fell silent, so we can assume that the deed had been done.
Our human sensitivity makes it easy for us to feel sorry for birds that lose their eggs or chicks to predators, but the truth is that nature is a self-contained food cycle that would not work without predation. Some eggs never become chicks and some chicks are lost, but it is all part of an eternal ongoing process. Everything feeds off something else, and it all seems to work out just fine. Left to its own devices, without the influence of the planet’s only psycho-predator, nature just is. We can enjoy the sounds of summer every time the season comes around, knowing that there will be blackbirds and magpies in the garden, as well as many others, all living alongside each other and sharing the same space. If only we could learn to do the same.