Birds for Breakfast

Photo Credit  Andrea Lightfoot  |  Unsplash

Photo Credit Andrea Lightfoot | Unsplash

It might seem odd that The Bird Garden is open before you’ve been warmed by the fire of the Kitchen or Lovers’ Nest. But the fact remains that it IS open before any other place (save the temporary erection which is The Architects Shed and Foundations).

Why? Childhood instincts probably play a part. Birds prompted my first poem. I drew birds before I drew people. My dad’s pretty cool at talking to birds in his version of their language too – wren, robin and blackbird.

Fast forward many decades. I picked up a bit of blackbird to ‘Clock Clock’ who lived with me for a while at Lizzie Limner’s in Cornwall. And I’m learning a smattering of pheasant and leaning my ear into the mewing of kites.

Why ‘for breakfast’? If, as I suspect, breakfast really is ‘the most important meal of the day’ then I request birds for breakfast every day. Birds fuel my imagination for flight, as you can hear below.

In short, I cannot imagine life without birds.

Before I take a first delicious sip of Chaga coffee there are pheasants, goldfinches, tits, nuthatches and robins to feed (along with occasional other visitors). As I muse on this habit, which prefaces dressing, first light starts with giving and it feels good. So it is also a receiving.

The birds are greedy. I’m unaware of any specific acts of gratitude, bar the pheasants who shift the tone of their cheeps as the seed hits the ground. Likewise, I assume they’re unaware of the gratitude I poetically heap upon them but I wonder if there’s a tentative symbiosis between us. A hesitant exploration of what it is to be loved by an ‘other’ species, without apparent motive.

And perhaps this is why John Clare lives here. I think he’d like The Bird Garden. Because lovers nest in nature. This is the verse which inspired the last poem in the second audio, read by former lover, Chris Barltrop.

‘I hid my love in field and town

Till e’en the breeze would knock me down

The Bees seemed singing ballads oe’r

The flyes buzz turned a Lions roar

And even silence found a tongue

To haunt me all the summer long

The Riddle nature could not prove

Was nothing else but secret love’

My receiving is more nourishing than food. These birds daily prompt my thoughts to soar above the mundane; they remind me that my two legs, too are planted on the soil of my fragility; and sometimes they reassure me of safety when I forget the magnitude of strength in numbers.

When John Clare speaks of ‘starnels’ he is referring to starlings. Going back further, the starling used to be called a ‘sheep-stare’...
— Feathered Fact

The real Wild Poplars looks out onto an unruly hedge of hazel containing a field determined to rewild itself on one side, and the beginnings of a ‘nodigforvictory’ permaculture border some sixty-foot long and five foot wide on the other. Two posts, fifteen feet apart hold my feeders. Here I sit, with pen, pause and ponder at the ready.

Come! Join me and John Clare for a ‘break-feast’…

All done? What’s next? Ah! Off to work and the most surprising thing I’ve ever learned about cuckoos.

[Back to The Grounds]