Monday, November 23, 2009

The city is awash with sound, so that you switch off your hearing a lot of the time and run on automatic, dimly aware of the cocktail of noises all about – a constant undercurrent of traffic, wind and rain this time of year, people’s voices, dogs barking, sound systems. But every so often an anomaly breaks through.

It being Saturday in the garden, and my gardening buddies away, I did a solitary round of the plots, checking up on the plants, looking at how the turning of the season shows itself. The blackcurrant and raspberry bushes are dropping their leaves now and are ragged and battered after the storms of the last few days. Our winter onions are doing well: the couch grass attack has been held back. The rhubarb is dissolving back into the ground. Herbs alone – especially the oregano – seem to be blooming.

A metallic ‘chip-chip’ sound registers: an unfamiliar sound. I look around towards the birch trees and there’s a flurry of a couple of small birds: what are they? We’ve seen robins, blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons - even the occasional bullfinch and wren up here – we’re close to the edge of Dublin and the wilds of Fingal I suppose, and there’s a nice mini-wilderness at the back of the garden.

I follow the two over to the trees around the edge of the school and hope they’ll stick around and stay still long enough to see them properly…one of them sits, I move over slowly: it’s a tiny little thing, surely a wren? But without the perpendicular (tell)tail sign. Closer: a bird shaped like a ball, about the size of a pool ball, and a white go-faster stripe against a brown body. Haven’t seen this one before – some kind of finch? I’m gonna have to go to google images later. Then a name springs to mind – a goldcrest…I wait for the bird to lower its head and not long after it duly obliges, does a little bow and there it is – a little yellow mohawk: a gold crest. Another little gift; a short burst of melody – something like a blackbird, though a few octaves higher – and it bounces away to join its companion, maybe to a nest in a large conifer across the road. See what they look like below...