Another sunny day in the UK, filled with the smell of Rosa ‘Jasmina’ as she gently sways in the breeze, giving off waves of warm rose perfume. She really is a spectacular rose.
The baby sparrows have started their yearly invasion. They are so less reasonable than their parents. For a few weeks they will entertain us with their antics, flying like bricks across the garden and landing on totally inappropriate perches, not yet aware of what can or cannot support their fluffy weight. They land on slender stems and go right down to the ground, not light enough to stay up but not heavy enough to break anything. They take off again as if bouncing on a trampoline, disorientated but not scared enough to sit still for even a minute. It is unimaginable that these tiny throats only a few millimetres long can produce such a racket. The parents follow with beaks full of seeds and flappings full of disapproval.
I posted another masking fluid video on YouTube, a shorter version of the tests I filmed earlier. In this abridged version (only about 5 minutes), I focused on the results rather than the process, marking the 10 brands on a series of criteria such as fluidity, ease of application and removal, colour, damage to the paper, precision of the unmasked marks, etc. The video is not exactly what you’re expecting. It kind of turned into something else as I was filming. The masking fluid tests results are definitely in there but they’re not alone… I had a lot of fun filming this. The longer version was 36 minutes long and entirely serious. I couldn’t take any more seriousness. The baby sparrows must be rubbing off on me.
I know that it’s not the exact title of the song (sorry Lionel), but it is how it feels this morning… I love a lazy, sunny summer Sunday morning breakfast in the garden.
This 31st of July 2016 is a perfect morning on the South coast of England.
The sky is a flawless intense cobalt blue, and at 10am the sun is not yet strong enough to burn but just enough to warm your skin. There is a gentle breeze swaying the Verbena and scabious but leaving the roses and Hydrangeas as still as in a photograph. The lavenders and scabious are buzzing with all sorts of insects and multicoloured butterflies, all excited at the freshly opened flowers.
Even the birds look lazy this morning. They perch on the feeder but spend more time looking around, having less than usual frantic conversations while occasionally pecking a seed, more often than not dropping it on the head of the grounded pigeon.
I treasure these fleeting peaceful moments, when you indulge in the beauty of your surroundings and take time to appreciate nature, even domesticated as it is in a suburban garden, in all its exquisiteness and magnificence. It brings to the front the good things in your life, forgetting for an instant the sad and painful times we all have scattered through our existence, as well as the terrible current state of the human world.
This morning my world stops at the garden’s walls and it’s full of sun, filled with a thousand flowers, humming with bumblebees and fluttering with a dozen butterflies, turquoise dragonflies, a few sleepy sparrows, a cooing dove and my dad’s homemade jam.
“It will never work” “They will completely ignore it” “It will always be filthy”
That was Mr. Flora’s Patch’s verdict on the general usefulness of a birdbath. Eventually he gave in, probably because it was easier. On a sale day at the garden centre, I got my birds a bath and proudly installed it by the birch tree where the feeders hang. We filled it with water and sat in the patio, with an anticipatory stance that was probably enough to scare the birds away even if the new, unfamiliar structure wasn’t going to.
Within twenty minutes, 3 species of birds had tried their newly discovered, dedicated feature: the first one, surprisingly, was the pigeon (he is usually a bit of a scaredy cat); the second one was the blackbird (frantic as usual); the third one was the robin (always nosy that one…)
The unexpected entertainment factor is that every bird has its own bathing style.
The dove and the pigeon’s disparity
The prettiest bathers have to be the collared doves. They sit on the ledge and try one foot first. They look like a 1920s young lady in a rather stylish pale grey bathing costume with a little black collar for good effect, extending her pointed toes to test the temperature before risking a full bath. Compared to the fat pigeon who lands straight in the centre with a big flop that sends the water over the edge, the collared doves are the most graceful creatures on Earth. When several visit together and sit around the edge, they look like a live incarnation of Pliny’s doves. It is magical.
The robin’s little engine
The wildest is the robin. He gathers momentum first by standing on the rim, looking intently at the water in great concentration. Then he jumps right in, plunging his head under water before coming up in a great bust of energy, the beads of water rolling down the back of his neck and flying in great arcs from the tip of his wings. He flaps his little wings so hard that he actually uses them as a method of propulsion, sending him right across the bird bath in half a dozen strokes, turning at the end and swimming back to his starting point like a tiny feather duster gone mad. He then comes back to rest on the rim for a minute, taking a breather before going back in for another wild bath. When the night falls, he flies up to the birch tree above, exhausted and happy, ready to fall asleep in a wet fluffy ball and dream of being a flying fish in a dish made of stone and carved roses.
The blackbirds’ back crawl
As usual, the blackbirds, both Mr. and Mrs., are rather energetic. Unlike the tidal wave of the pigeons, their effusions are like a rainbow of droplets. They manage to shake every millimeter of their body all at once, making the most of the cool water on a hot sweaty day. They come out looking disheveled and disappointingly not much less stressed than they were before their swim.
The goldfinches’ day out
Yesterday for the first time the birdbath was invaded by a flock of goldfinches, chatting away noisily as they shared the pool Roman style, on what looked like an organised spa day trip for small colourful birds. Unfortunately they were moving so fast that I never managed to get a single picture of the group in focus. I expect that their exciting chattering could be heard in a two-mile radius.
The sparrows’ disappearance
The sparrows actually like to go underwater! They sit on the edge for a bit, evaluating the depth of the pool, then they take the plunge and completely disappear, flat on the bottom, until suddenly their little heads emerge over the rim. They make me feel like a lifeguard on duty, ready with my resuscitation kit! As several of them do this together, I wonder if they’re holding some kind of competition, Le Grand Bleu style…
There are still some inhabitants of my garden who have yet to get their feet wet: I have never seen the wrens, the blue tits, the great tits, the long-tailed tits or the greenfinches capering in there. I am keeping an eye out and will update the post if I catch them.
I wish the squirrel would have a go as well. I bet that would be funny!
I must admit, one of the arguments against the birdbath was justified: it IS always filthy and a bit of a chore keeping it clean, but worth every scrub of the brush for the constant spectacle it offers.
I shall finish with the rudest of them all (no surprise there!)