Author: Heidi Cullip

Ealing’s new peregrine falcons

Female Peregrine Falcon P4V (Photo: Steve Morey)

A lot goes on behind the scenes at Ealing Wildlife Group that isn’t posted publicly. For several years now, we’ve been watching, monitoring and keeping tabs on some of the rarer wildlife species in or near the borough of Ealing. Where threatened or endangered species may be prone to disturbance or persecution we’ve made it our priority to keep an eye, check in with other local experts, get in touch with landowners, developers and the ranger team to make sure that vulnerable wildlife is protected. And for several years now we’ve been watching a few pairs of peregrine falcons on the periphery or just outside the Borough getting on with their daily lives, and in a couple of cases breeding successfully. All with the hope that some day we’d see this incredible raptor species move in to Ealing proper, and expand their range.

Well, the last couple of months has seen a rising number of reports of peregrine falcon sightings around Ealing Hospital. And sure enough, there’s a pair roosting on the West face most days. The falcon, or female bird, much bigger than the male known as a tiercel, has a ring on each leg. On her right, a small silver British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) ring. And more excitingly, on her left leg, an orange ring with a more obvious alphanumerical code. Our talented photographers have been out checking on them and finally we received a photo confirming her ring number from Steve Morey. Using that unique identifier, we got in touch with the licensed ringer who fitted this ring. It turns out our falcon was born in a quarry near Farnham in Surrey in 2018, and ringed as a well grown chick with her two siblings on the 28th May 2018 by a BTO licensed ringer. It wasn’t recorded whether she was a male or female at the time as the chicks were all similar in size. But now we can tell she is a female as she is much larger than her mate, a trait common in birds of prey.

History

Peregrine falcons are a globally widespread bird of prey, traditionally occupying habitats like sea cliffs and preying on the ancestor of domestic pigeons, the rock dove. In the 1950’s and 1960’d the global population crashed due to accumulation of agricultural pesticides in the food chain, namely DDT. Because they are apex predators, feeding on birds who in turn feed on agricultural grains and insects, the levels of these harmful chemical built up in peregrine tissues and caused breeding failure. They weren’t rendered infertile, but their egg shells became very thin and often broke, resulting in a global failure of the population to successfully raise chicks. When the use of these pesticides was banned enough peregrines had just clung on to make a slow recovery over the following decades. In many respects, it was the release of the book Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962 which shone a light on the destruction of wildlife by the agrochemical industry which saved the peregrine falcon and many other species. She died in 1964 aged 56 so didn’t live to see the wildlife population recovery she prompted, but her book is recognised as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.

Tall buildings and feral pigeon populations in urban areas nowadays mimic their natural habitat quite closely and as the population has recovered we’ve seen a movement of these magnificent raptors into cities and towns, where they find suitable ‘rock ledges’ to nest on and plentiful food supplies. But they are still persecuted by gamekeepers, racing pigeon fanciers and egg collectors. There is also a lucrative market for peregrine chicks to be used as falconry birds in the Middle East. So it’s important that their nest sites are protected, and in some cases where they are very vulnerable, kept entirely secret.

Tiercel or male falcon (photo: Rachael Webb)

Public disclosure?

Many conservation bodies have discovered that sometimes the best way to protect vulnerable species is not to hide them away however, it’s to tell the public all about them and generate a community of people around them who will advocate for them, monitor them and feel a sense of ownership for ‘their’ birds. And in this case with our new peregrine pair on such a public building as Ealing Hospital, we feel that’s exactly the right approach. They are already in full view of Ealing residents. They are an apex predator, a great indicator species for the health of our local ecosystems and bird life, and what a fantastic species to engage the public with nature. Literally the fastest animal on the planet, with speeds of up to 200mph in a hunting stoop to capture other birds in flight. So let’s celebrate our newest wild residents!

How can we help?

We have been in touch with several other building managers or developments to discuss installing a nesting box or platform on rooftops in Ealing, and now have contacted the facilities manager at Ealing Hospital too. Luckily, they are already aware of the falcon pair and being careful not to disturb them,. One of the benefits they’ve seen already is the reduction of feral pigeon numbers around the hospital which are unfortunately a health hazard with their droppings if they occur in high numbers.

We’re hoping to collaborate to install a nest box in early 2021 to help these birds breed here and establish the hospital as a permanent breeding site. 2021 would be about the right time for our female P4V to breed for the first time, in her third year. This year the pair seem to roosting on the hospital and establishing their bond ready for breeding next year hopefully.

Falcon calling for her new mate (photo: Steve Morey)

Naming the pair…

One of the ways we can engage the community with wildlife conservation in the borough and take an interest in protecting these birds, and by association our important habitats nearby, is to name the pair and make them something on an Ealing wildlife mascot. We’ve been busy collecting suggestions on our Facebook group, so now’s the time to put it to a public poll

Have your say here:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LPCK8VP

What shall we call our Ealing peregrine falcons?

Male or Tiercel Peregrine Falcon (Photo: Rachael Webb)

Meet Your Community

Ealing Wildlife Group is a wonderful community and everyone is welcome. At time of writing we have over 2,800 members which is an incredible number!  Whether you’re a regular contributor, Facebook appreciator or maybe a photographic whizz – we’re a local community group which hopefully is bringing you some joy!  Whilst EWG does put on regular socials, events and volunteer days (when possible!) – not everyone can come along and many members don’t get to meet others in the group. 

We got together with some of our well known names to pull together a virtual ‘meet your community members’ so you can put some names to faces and to find out more about what EWG means to them.

Debbie Nixon – W7

Debbie Nixon

Been a member of EWG since 2016

Lived in various parts of Ealing Borough for 40 years

Got involved with EWG at the end of 2015, I wanted to revamp my garden but still ensure it was wildlife friendly. I saw a post on Facebook which showed a lovely garden Sean had designed a few years earlier for a competition.  We met, I instantly warmed to him (he loves dogs!) he redesigned the layout, helped build new beds, brought in new plants and shrubs and created a pond.

In 2016, a post appeared on a local Facebook group enquiring about the bats at Hanwell Viaduct.  I immediately thought of Sean and his huge knowledge and passion for wildlife. I tagged him and he offered to host a bat walk if anyone was interested. I think about 100 people responded! We did a few, got Helen, who was a scientific researcher and Paula, who already ran bat walks in Walpole Park to help. Sean then said he’d like to set up a Group to bring together local folk to share everything and anything nature related in the Borough.

Favourite thing about EWG?  As more people have joined with various skills, knowledge and enthusiasm, this has created the amazing and very special Group it is today.  I help out when I can, I’m a midwife and always encourage women to join, good for the children and them. When I’m out dog walking and see someone taking a photo or looking at something, I ask have they heard of the Group, it’s great when they are already members! I’m sure many people see me as a slightly crazy woman but I love telling people about EWG!


Nigel Bewley – W5

Nigel Bewley

Been a member of EWG since 2016

Lived in Ealing for 38 years

Got involved with EWG after being told about it in the car on the way home from a birding trip.

Favourite thing about EWG?  The collective expertise, offered freely and without ‘judgement’. Members share their experiences and observations of wildlife in Ealing and sometimes beyond, and comment on topical environmental issues.  Some of the members like beer, and that is a good thing!


Annette & Julie Winter

Annette Winter – W7

Been a member of EWG since 2017

Lived in Ealing for 50 years

I don’t remember how I found the group on Facebook but I was following it for a while and I keep noticing that there were organised events including bat walks at the meadow near the Viaduct, which is pretty close to where I live, and I thought that I should go to one and eventually I did. About 30 years prior to that I had attended a couple of bat walks organised by the Rangers at Brent Lodge Park, back when detectors seemed to be large wooden boxes, but hadn’t actually managed to see an actual bat. This event was different, the detectors were small, easily portable, electronic devices and more importantly they worked! I met Sean and a friendly group of people, had an interesting introductory talk and eventually saw my first bats swooping around the river – It was brilliant and I was completely hooked.

The things that I love about EWG is that it brings beauty into my life on a daily basis, mostly through the photographs taken by other members but also through articles, book suggestions and humorous threads on the web page. I also really like the way that it dovetails with the parks and environmental teams within the council and this has lead me to further activities that I never would have thought of doing including yet more bat walks, where we’ve met other members of the group, bulb plantings, herb and tree identification walks, moth and bird counts and even dragonfly identification courses (mostly spent laughing with Boaby and Kish).

The trip to see the starling murmuration at Oxmoor was one of the most brilliant things ever – If you ever get a chance to see this, do it and we met Yvonne and Charlie on that trip who feel like friends. The best thing of all is that I feel like I’m still learning thanks to EWG. I watched a film the other evening and just at the crucial moment, when the heroine crash landed, I heard the birds squawk and thought that’s a great tit! I really love that I now know that.

Julie Winter – UB6

Been a member of EWG since 2017

Lived in Ealing for 50 years

I was introduced to the group by my sister, Annette. We are both really invested in Walpole Park. It has been witness to all of our training attempts to complete a 5K run for Cancer Race for Life and we also have a memorial tree for our Dad there, which is a rendezvous point for us.

One afternoon, I was sat on the bench overlooking Dad’s tree, Annette had gone to buy our teas from the Rickyard cafe. She’s been gone a while and I cast my eyes around and spotted her, with our hot beverages in hand with “a strange man “. They were both staring up into the canopy of a mature tree. I’m keeping my eye on him in case he’s dodgy! When Annette returns, she has news. “That noise we heard coming from the tree is in fact the feeding call from baby owls, we have Little Owls breeding in Ealing !!” I’m astonished about the owls but curious about the tree staring stranger. ” That’s Sean, he runs Ealing Wildlife Group on Facebook, it’s a group of local people who love and enjoy nature and wildlife, you should join”. She sent me the link the same evening.

Favourite thing about EWG?  Too many: I love the opportunity to revisit things we did as children such as listening and identifying bird song. Getting involved in habitat work such as building stumperies and bat boxes (or trying to). The annual Photo exhibition is superb, but I have to confess to loving the organised Bat Walks. I now have my own bat detector and no doubt look “strange “ too as I’m wandering around, looking up and waving my gadget around.


Heidi Cullip – W13

Been a member of EWG since 2019

Lived in Ealing for 4 years

I work with Sean in our day jobs and, as soon as I heard about EWG, I was eager to find out all about it so I joined the Facebook group.  Sean and I car share to work so I get to hear a lot about what’s going on with the group and the projects that Sean is working on and I was overawed by what the group has been able to achieve and the grand plans that EWG have for the future.   

I was so excited to get involved in a bigger way and, as I work in Marketing and PR in my day job, I offered to do some comms/marketing work for the group.  I look after the newsletter and any press releases that need to go out.  I’m also working on a secret website project (more to come soon!) alongside my husband Drew Noble who is also an active member of the group.

Favourite thing about EWG? I love how many experts we have in the group!  I had no idea that there were so many knowledgeable and passionate people walking around – it’s wonderful to have a supportive community like EWG which enables everyone to get involved!

April Writing Competition Entries

In our April newsletter, we set you the task of writing a 250 word story about what you can see from your window.  We were amazed by the variety of the entries – they were all so good – all of them displaying just what wildlife means to you.  It was a joy to read them.   Our winner was Simon Winch and his lovely story about Urban Foxes – Simon wins a £20 Amazon voucher – well done Simon!

All of the entries are below for you to read through and enjoy!

(And look out for a mention of our very own Nigel Bewley!)


Winner

Urban Foxes by Simon Winch

Over 18, UB2

Yellow-breasted workmen down tools, lock the compound, and join their families for an unexpected spring holiday. Night descends, stranded park benches on newly laid lawn keep company with landscaping materials, young branches sway, and spectral plastic packaging is whipped by the wind.

Soon new workmen emerge, their orange jackets dulled by twilight. On security detail, they comb the perimeter, checking fences for fastness. The younger of them tumble on the newly laid grass, as an older head plods onwards with minimum of fuss. Curtains twitch, and new neighbours join in our delight.

Soon the building site will become busy again, and these orange-coated performers will have to share their turf. But for now, they please their audience, and at 8pm on Thursdays soak up their applause.


Basia Korzeniowska

Over 18, W13

Today I am on safari.  In my kitchen.  I am wearing khaki and  trying to blend in with my environment. I stand very still and look out of my kitchen window which  looks out onto my garden. it is tiny – 22 feet by 12,  north facing and very dark - but what a riot of colour. Cyclamen, fuchsias, geraniums, camellias, daffodils and snowdrops. and lots of greenery.  All home to a wide variety of wildlife.  Birds, squirrels, mice and rats.  And spiders.

We used to have a bird table just outside the window – a lovely little structure, with a little roof – a perfect little shelter and feeder for the birds.  We used to get jays, magpies, robins, blackbirds and even a woodpecker once.  Lots of tits and chaffinches – always a pleasure to look at. But the bird food was disappearing very fast.  At first I was delighted that my little dining area was popular with our feathered friends.  And then I looked.  It wasn’t the feathered two legged members of the animal kingdom that were enjoying my bounty.  Two extremely fat rats feasting at my expense.  The bird table was removed the next day and yet   the birds still kept coming.  Some robins even made a nest in the hedge.  And then one day in the spring what do I see but eight! Eight little ratlings gambolling on the grass.  They looked so sweet. Brown and glossy with long swishy tails. But I don’t want to see them ever again.


Where’s my Fuzzle? by Andi-Rae Walsh

Under 18, W7

Once there was a beautiful world, it had all different kinds of nature, it even had lovely, warm weather.
One happy day it was perfect to go out in the garden!(If you had one.)
On this summers morning some people were moving into a house near a mini golf course, where some friendly wildlife lived in a field next to the mini golf course for adults to play golf too!! The people who moved in last week came to the mini golf course with their little girl taking her teddy she never let’s go of, that she named Fuzzle a few years ago!
When they were playing golf on the mini course, the little girl (named Daisy) was paying more attention to the fun she was having on the 5th hole that she left Fuzzle behind when they moved on to hole 6. Then they all went home because:

  1. They’d finished all 9 holes
  2.  It was late
  3. Daisy was tired!

When they got home disaster struck!
Daisy noticed she had lost Fuzzle . Then this happened “WWWWWWW………WWW…….WWAAAAAAAAA……….AAAAAA!!!”
Her parents said they’d have to get him in the morning because the golf place would be closed. Daisy spent the whole night looking out the window. After some time Daisy couldn’t believe her eyes and screamed waking her parents up!
There in the middle of the garden was a hedgehog holding Fuzzle!
From that day on Daisy and her parents always left out cat food to say thank you.


Cathryn Wynn-Jones

Over 18, W13

There’s a tiny park right outside my window – just a little playground, a single bench and a patch of grass.

The playground is locked now, covered in yellow government warning signs, but yesterday I looked out and saw fox cubs playing there at three in the afternoon – squeaking, rolling, chasing each other up and down. The mother fox watched them from the shade.

There’s police tape across the bench – no place to sit down for a moment if you’re tired on your one daily walk. But last weekend I saw a squirrel stretched out on it, basking in the sun, for at least twenty minutes. Squirrels have no respect for the law.

Every now and then someone comes to mow the grass, and whoever spots it first will shout: “They’re mowing the grass!”

Then all four of us run to the window to watch the mower as it loops up and down. It’s not that we’re bored, it’s just that little things suddenly seem much more interesting.

When they’ve finished, we keep the windows open so that the flat fills with the cut-grass smell, and watch the birds and the squirrels and the foxes come back.

While our world gets smaller, theirs is getting bigger.


The Cherry Tree by Heidi Cullip

Over 18, W13

It is Spring. The wind is moving through the cherry tree – the white blossoms and green leaves are dancing in the breeze against the backdrop of a bright blue sky. It is April. Sunny but cold. The signs of life are everywhere but, from my window, all I can see is the cherry tree. I’m sitting at my computer and daydreaming – the cherry tree is mocking me with its place in the sun and its view over the neighbouring back gardens. What can the cherry tree see? What has it seen in its lifetime? I’ve been here 4 years so it’s witnessed the drunken summer BBQs, the dogs I look after, the books I’ve read whilst sat under its branches. But what about before me? My husband has been here for 14 years – what secrets of his does the cherry tree know?

Where did the cherry tree come from, I wonder. A seed blown in on the breeze from France or Spain or Turkey? A voyager who has been on a long journey, its final destination a back garden in Ealing? Floating on the wind, blowing across a continent, a sea and a city to end up in our soil. Is it happy to be grounded at last or does it wish it could fly on the wind forever? It looks happy – its pink-white blossom covers the tree making it shine in the sun. With its arms up to the sky the cherry tree looks like it’s dancing.


Bees Matter by Louise Powell

Over 18

“You need to grow up and leave that poor defenceless creature alone, what’s it ever done to you?” If I said it once I said it a thousand times a day, people just didn’t make sense to me. What pleasure was there to be had in harassing a tiny being that was quietly living its’ life, doing what was necessary for its’ survival and that of its’ companions?

This part of town was not my favourite, but there were plenty of trees, and the streets were filled with an assortment of people – short, tall, plain, rainbow-coloured, men, women, children and all manner of beings in between.

I disliked people intently. Birds I could tolerate, they made beautiful sounds. Squirrels, foxes, badgers and beyond, well, I had an expanding affection for them. Something about their cute babies and furry coats. My anger this morning, however, concerned a frighteningly ignorant human being and the object of my passion, a bee.

Bees just mattered to me, they worked hard, they lived in hierarchical communities, and they managed to fly even though in theory their wings weren’t large enough to carry their bodies. I knew there was a hive nearby because I saw a number of bees making the same journey every day.

I wasn’t a big fan of the outdoors (too many people), so I was grateful for the large window at the front of my flat. Those busy insects carried me beside them as they travelled, and I wasn’t about to let anyone deprive me of that magical experience.


A Blink of Wildlife by Poppy Powell

under 18

I blink as the small shivers of light waltz across my room: a writhing lake. The sun lazily wades among the blue sky, a contrast of elements. The sky is a blue you will only see once, as if made of the nebulas that somersault and swoon in the night-time. The old willow tree creaks and moans and its ribbons of never-ending green remind me of waterfalls. I feel the shade of the mighty oak tree enwrap me in its crisp embrace and shields me from the sun. I steer my gaze down. Different grasses, bluebells and other hated `weeds` congregate and create a patchwork of lilacs and greens and all sorts of colours. A spectrum like stained glass. Roses entangle the old, weathered sundial, whose angel’s shadow points roughly to the south where the mills churn the flour and make the loafs: they are often stolen by the squirrels. They live in the birch tree behind the sunflower patch. Their red fur much more precious than the purest diamond. Building their flats and bounding across my wild garden to the peach tree where an abundance of wildlife blooms. Goldfinches dart in and out amongst the gnarly branches; blue tits tweet their at-first feeble but melodic song. Thrushes feast on the holly berries that creep up past the peach tree. I breathe in the sweet scent of the wisteria that frames my window and wistfully look at the honeybees and their pockets of pollen.

I blink again at wondrous wildlife.


Anonymous

Over 18, UB6

The tree has grown sturdy this year. Another season of rain, a half season of sun, and where last year it could proudly point outwards with its own shoots, unfurl frothy blossoms from its own hands, this year it has learned to perform such magic without a fuss and to quietly accept its growth is for others.

The silvery branches no longer quiver, and are strong enough to hold safe. First a blackbird alights, a little cautiously. Blue tits follow, barely shaking the branch with the strength of their squabble, and even a pigeon confidently, if a little misguidedly, swoops its feet onto the rowan’s broadest branch.

And the people notice, and a feeder is hung. Fat balls, seeds, a towering pile of peanuts that could feed a family of tits all winter. The rowan does not bend, and the branches welcome them all.

The perch a stage for feet and beaks, wings whirr and cries cross as each bright eye spots the food source. The second pair of goldfinches are even cockier than the first, and the pigeon’s mate overbalances too, but the robin’s swagger sees them all off.

The blackbird watches from the fresh flush of hornbeam all around, planted the same year; its new leaves almost too sharply green for human eyes. This tree, he knows, strong enough to hold these contraptions swaying with hungry hourly battles, will swell red berries in the coming months, and he will wait.


The View From My Bedroom Window by Maya Klich

Under 18, W7

In Spring, when nature comes to life, I tumble out of bed every morning to a wonderful scene from my bedroom window: my garden. Finally, the bitter chill of Winter has been shoved away and the sun’s beams appear to reach down and tickle the flowers buds awake, opening up their multicoloured petals. This is an instant invitation to dozens of industrious bees, all keen to gather handfuls of pollen. All plants in the garden breathe in the glowing energy of this magnificent season while many different types of birds fly about in the clear, azure sky. My two cats stretch out and sunbathe on the trampoline, and observe the gorgeous butterflies waltzing around the garden. Tree leaves sway and rustle in the slight Spring breeze like professional dancers circling to an unknown beat. The dewy grass stands straight like bony, stretched-out fingers, drying itself from its morning hose shower. Robins and blackbirds land on top of our viridescent shed and sing with their soothing, harmonic voices. Intertwining vines, which crawl across our fence, explode in an array of greens as their leaves grow.

During dusk, the sun looks like a sphere of melting wax, softening into slime. Soon, a vast, silver coin surfaces above the horizon and twinkling stars emerge from the darkening sky.  Foxes start roaming the area; they resemble orange-masked bandits, leaping over hedges and slipping through gaps below fences. The wind howls softly and after hours of duskiness, the sun creeps up and the moon flees.


Amazing Foxes by Niamh Walsh

Under 18, W7

Foxes are amazing creatures we just take them for granted.

Every night one comes into my garden and sits below my window. I often sit there waiting by my window and when she doesn’t come I read. My security light turns on when someone is their so I know she is there. I look outside and she is there waiting for me. She jumps up and down she also rolls side to side and runs off from the side of the garden to the back of my garden. She is so cute and plays around with the stuff in the garden like shoes if they’re wet but she never rips them.

I’ve never got a picture of her but she is a very cute fox. I love her a lot.

I watch her playing with the stuff outside and wish I could be with her but I should be in bed. I know it’s a girl because one night she brought a cub with her and they were playing together so happily until they heard something and ran away. A few minutes later they came back not seeming scared a bit. They carried on playing and then she brought her little cub below my window. The little fox cub was so beautiful and it’s eyes from what I could see were blue like the ocean. As it was cuddling up to the mother fox she started licking her little cub.

I enjoy being able to watch them more during lockdown.


Butterflies by Sophie

Under 18, W5

It is April.  2020.  Lockdown.  I’m bored.  Again.  In my room.  Up high.  Near the sky.  Feeling like there’s nothing to do.  I stare down.  Down into the garden.  The emerald-green garden. Nothing is happening.  It looks bored.  At night, at least I can watch the three-legged fox scampering around the garden. The neighbour’s cat is perched on our fence staring inquisitively at something just out of sight.  I follow her gaze to the red- leafed tree.  I squint my eyes into the bright, sun-lit day.  I can just about make something out … something blue.  Forget-me-not blue.  Out of the corner of my eye, I think I can see it move – just slightly…  Hang on, it swirling up into the air; it’s flying. It’s coming closer to me, its flying up high to my window… to me!  When it is just on the other side of the window, directly opposite me, the forget-me-not blue butterfly looks at me.  I know it smiles.  I smile back.  I’m going to follow that butterfly. Lockdown does not have to be boring and…

Then I hear mum coming up the stairs.  “Mum, Mum!”,
“Yes, what now?”
“ I’m not bored!


Noisy Neighbours by Lynda O’Hare

Over 18, UB6

The noise never stops. Back and forth they go, busy, busy, busy, chirping, trilling and exercising vocal gymnastics that begin before dawn and last all day, each competing for the sweetest, loudest and most melodic song.

These noisy neighbours are my feathered friends building their nests. In and out of trees and hedges,sneaking under logs, beady eyes ever searching for twigs, leaves and the garden treasure they need for a perfect nest, working like there’s no time to spare.

The bigger birds – crows and magpies prefer the tall trees, their nests swaying in lofty branches.Closer to my window, the hedge is alive with the little ones, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, flapping around. The goldfinches have flown elsewhere, they play so hard to get, now you see them, now you don’t. A distant green woodpecker chuckles and a chubby chaffinch sits quietly, alone, taking a break from the frenzied activity all around.

And there’s mating action too from my noisy neighbours. A pair of crows argue and tussle over a chicken bone like an old married couple on a drunken night out fighting for the last drop of cider, while two contented stock doves, devoted to each other, snuggle up on their favourite branch in the cherry tree.

My feathered friendly noisy neighbours, reminding me another spring is upon us and that once more, they will gift me with chicks and song, entertainment and joy that only birds can bring. I won’t complain about my noisy neighbours!


The Robin by Camille Gajria

Over 18, UB5

You won’t believe me but I’ll tell you anyway.

Scruffy robin, toes curled tight on the washing line. Propelled by the gentle breeze, he swings from the patch warmed by the exceptional April sun we’re getting, to the shade from my neighbour’s overhanging ivy, surveying for a meal from my dig.

Lockdown has been good for digging. Digging is disruptive to the soil, but also aerates it. If you dig deep enough, you can break out a sweat, but you might also find treasure: a long-forgotten toy stashed there by a fox, pre-decimal coins, crockery, worms.
And then he begins his powerful Spring song, in melodious, complex riffs.

I unfold my spine and wipe my brow. The line is still now.

He hops off it and approaches me. Tenacious creature. He hops and hops and lands between my finger and my thumb, like Heaney’s squat pen.

His urgent song is incessant. Robin what are you saying? He beckons me to drop my head. Time has stopped. I see all the reds, browns, and whites, and the outline and inset of each feather, more clearly than I ever have before. I consider moving away, maybe he will peck me. Or maybe I should’ve had my camera ready like Nigel would say.

But before I can turn, he comes right up to my ear and whispers:
“Where there is shadow, there must be light”.