There is a small, angry bird in my neighborhood. I have come to know her quite well over the past few months.
I first came across her in a local park when she dive-bombed me. She is a grey finch with yellow markings. She reminds me a bit of a woodchuck – or at least what I imagine to be a woodchuck from the American cartoons of my childhood. She has a kind of chevron marking in the centre of her forehead (if birds have foreheads). It is white with a black outline and it makes her look permanently angry. The next few times I went to the park she dive-bombed me, squawking loudly and looking angry. I was half annoyed, half amused by her. I did wonder how she learned to be so aggressive. Maybe she’d learned it from the local magpies?
As winter drew in, I didn’t see the angry bird so much. I did see the wood chips from the garden beds in my courtyard strewn all over the pavers. Every day. At least once a day. After the worst of winter was over, my partner gave me some fresh compost. Romantic, I know. After I put it on the narrow beds on either side of my pavers and in the small garden bed in front of my terraced house, the wood chip flicking escalated. It really started to piss me off. Every time I left my house, I’d neatly sweep it back into the beds. When I got back home, it would be scattered across the pavers. There was some serious digging going on when I was not around.
One morning, I was sitting at my kitchen table, working on my mac, gazing out into the courtyard through the sliding doors when I saw her. The little angry woodchuck digging up my garden beds. I hardly moved. I just clapped my hands and she took off. But she waited me out. Every single day. I came back to debris all over the front and back pavers. I couldn’t understand why this little bird was so intent on digging things up. My things, making a mess. I really hate a mess.
Before I moved into this house, I had always dreamed of being able to sleep with my bedroom door open. Fresh air and the sounds of nature poured into my room. These days I live in a quiet neighbourhood. My bedroom is upstairs. It has a small balcony that faces right into a large established tree. Every morning, for two years, I’ve woken up to the sound of bird songs. It changes with the seasons. And I’ve learned a lot about birds. I had no idea that birds play, chasing each other down the long boulevard just for the fun of it. Nor that they worked so hard. It turned out that is exactly what this little grey finch had been doing. Working hard.
I’d started to hear the high-pitched sound of baby birds outside the window in the early morning. After a bit of squinting, both from my balcony and up into the tree from the ground underneath, spotted a nest. It’s fair to say I got a little obsessed. I’d stand behind the black mesh of my screen door and watch. That’s when I saw her. The little grey bird, feeding her babies. On-demand. When I opened the door to get a closer look and make sure it was her, she let fly her most angry squawk. I padded back to the bedroom, closed the door, and left her to it. I still watched, whenever I got the chance. I couldn’t help myself.
Over the next couple of weeks, I saw and heard the chicks grow. The little grey finch just kept on feeding them. That’s what she’d been working so hard for. I let go of my tidy garden beds and watched new life unfold from my balcony.
One Wednesday morning, the Council contractors came as they usually do. It is was early Summer and I guess, wanting to reduce fire hazards, they trimmed the trees. By the time I’d walked back to my house, they’d already trimmed the gorgeous big tree. They hadn’t cut the branch the nest was in. Whatever it was they had done had resulted in absolute silence. No more baby bird songs.
I spent the better part of the day trying to convince myself that the birds had flown off. When I opened the deck door in the middle of the afternoon I was eye level with the little grey finch. She was really angry now. She looked into the empty nest and then looked back at me squawking as if to say “What the hell happened here?” There was nothing I could say.
Except maybe that humans can be dumb. Not to mention careless. I haven’t seen the bird around for a while. There is no mess in my garden and no chicks’ birdsong. All is quiet. It feels like the beginning of time. Or maybe it’s the end and I’m just too dumb to tell the difference.