A small mound of grey downy feathers and some black feathers greeted me as I walked onto the lawn. These were the remains of a sparrowhawk’s tasty blackbird meal. I was relieved I missed the mealtime as there is nothing more heartrending to hear than the screams of a dying blackbird. The garden, usually full of birds and birdsong, was eerily quiet. I knew it would take some time before the first birds began to appear again to sing their songs. The tragedy of this scenario was that the blackbird was feeding its brood of little chicks.
Sadly for me, there are four predatory birds in my garden. The sparrowhawk camouflages itself amongst the ivy at the right-hand corner of the back fence, waiting to pounce on its prey – usually a blackbird. A few feet along the fence the magpie struts up and down. He doesn’t look as much as he listens. You’ll see him cock his head to one side then, making a dive into a thorny hedge, he destroys any nest of hatchlings. In the middle of the fence there are three rooks. They preen themselves, strut up and down, feed off the neighbours’ bird feeders day after day, whilst waiting to pounce on baby birds just as they fledge.
Once a garden is emptied of its young birds, the predators move onto the next … and the next … and the next until, by the end of the summer, there will be a very small group of successfully hatched and fledged baby birds. All the hard work of parent birds building their nests and feeding their young gone in a flash. What a waste of effort! It caused me to think of how quickly our efforts, aspirations and successes can be so quickly taken from us, leaving us quite demoralised. Do we take heed of the warning signs when they first appear? The birds have their own way of raising the alarm. Their songs become harsh and shrill and the message is passed around the garden as the alarm bells ring out in different directions. Smaller birds will even mob a predator to get rid of them. What action do we take when we hear the alarm bells? We need to familiarise ourselves with the enemy’s tactics and make a plan to avert disaster. Should we find ourselves robbed of the hoped for recognition or achievement will we, like the birds, be prepared to start rebuilding again?