Saturday, August 04, 2007

fur 'n feathers

I take it absurdly personally when we get new and different birds visiting our garden.

Recently we've had a woodpecker on the bird tree quite regularly, which I take as a compliment specifically for me. I hoped to get a pic., but he scarpers as soon as you get near the window. He is very dashing with his lovely scarlet pudding-basin hairstyle. I'm very happy to see him, though I wish he was less jumpy.

I was also very happy to see a wren in the garden yesterday. I used to see one quite often, but its been a year or two, so i'd feared they had abandoned me. Wrens are the smallest native British bird, shyly brown and sweetly round, with alert little tails, I love them and they are all called Jenny. Including the boy-wrens.

We also now have a regular troupe of goldfinches visiting. This is since a friend told me that niger seed is almost guaranteed to attract them to your garden. And it worked after a couple of months. They treat it very much as an all-you-can-eat-all-day buffet, they always come in pairs or larger groups - sometimes they fight a bit over the seed, always they are bright and lovely.

We also have starlings in the garden - they seem to have more specific meal times, which is a good thing as they are very rude, loud and ill-mannered, frequently chasing away smaller birds. Their feathers have a beautiful blue-green-oil-sheen.

There are usually sparrows about, which is only as it should be, of course. And tits sometimes. And pigeons loitering under the tree to catch fallen seed. Sometimes the pigeons try to take seed from the feeders mid-flight whilst flapping and falling about in a most ungainly and quite entertaining way. Pigeons (especially the wood pigeons) are just so unfeasibly un-aerodynamic looking at the best of times. Just how do they get off the ground?

Despite the range and number of neighbourhood cats who seem to consider our garden to be their territory (I saw a tom cat spraying on my asters the other day. bloody nerve) - we don't often seem to have unfortunate fur 'n feather incidents. Though every now and then there is a scatter of pigeon feathers on the lawn.

LG has been conducting a fairly sustained campaign for us to get another cat. I blame my good friend P, whose Bengal cat has 8 almost unbearably adorable kittens. There are eight of them (EIGHT) with names I can't remember entirely - but which include Pagic, Magic, Peep, Popsicle and Mousekin (named by P's 4 year-old who also named her doll "Maggot") - and once we get back from our holiday we will be going round there again to waste time at the altar of kitten adulation. They are so small and soft and sweet with such exquisite little faces.

So of course I had to show you the little lovelies - which range from a beautiful grey-tabby, like their mother, slightly gingery tabby, through all grey with white fringed-ears, to black with orange splotches and all-black - at 3 and a bit weeks old.

I read at the weekend about Oscar the Rhode island cat. If you haven't read/heard about him, see Kimy's post here. The Guardian described him as "a tabby harbinger of doom".
But I thought it was a lovely and moving story. I don't think the kinship a lot of humans feel with animals is as one-sided as some people would like to suggest and also, that the fact we find this story remarkable or surprising says something about the significance often given to animals and our relationships with them. Would the Guardian have used this phrase if Oscar was a human being? There are other cultures around the world where Oscar's role would be seen as quite natural and unsurprising.

How different are we really from (other) animals? Mary Midgley talks about how its often assumed that there is an impenetrable and self-evident barrier separating us from other animals. But she suggests that maybe, actually, its more like a chain-link fence. From certain perspectives - eg. from the top, looking down - it might appear fairly solid, and a city broker in suit and tie with laptop might seem clearly very different from other species. But a chain-link fence is mainly holes - which is particularly obvious at eye-level, down on the ground. And of course children are nearest to the ground, and tend to see the holes more than the wire. And in this particular chain-link fence, the holes are big enough for children, at least - and the young of all sorts of species - to pop backwards and forwards to play.

The Oscar story also reinforces my belief that there are forms of knowledge and communication and relationship which have little or nothing to do with the "rational objectivity" which (at least western) societies have made such a song and dance about.

There are animals which know some things we cannot know, for all our progress and cleverness - and some of those are the most important things.

So, in fact - and i've just thought of this! - maybe Jenny Wren came back because she knew I would find her presence consoling.

Right, lecture over.
I am off later today - to my brother & SIL's party: 2 x 50ths and a 25th wedding anniversary. Blimus.

And on Sunday, tomorrow, off to France. We will be in the Dordogne for 2 weeks, in a little village called Soucirac. i don't promise to think of you all and/or miss you (sorry, nothing personal...) but I will be taking some pictures and will look forward to sharing some of it with you when we get back.

oh, nearly forgot. No fur or feathers, but this is my last froglet sighting, just before I went off to Perpignan about 3 weeks ago. Hopping in and out of the pool, so hopefully they can find their way home when they need to. They are fully froglike now, but when I took these pics were still only about 1 inch 2cm+ long.

Toodle-oo lovely blog people, see you again soon.


tut-tut said...

Ooh, take a kitten; take TWO kittens and post all about them. what a nice wandering post into birds and animals. Have fun again in France, lucky you!

Reya Mellicker said...

Kittens are adorable, cats are mighty. Some of them are supreme beings, like the cat who helps usher humans through the veil when it's time for them to die. What a good kitty that one is!

I believe it's part of our hubris as human beings to think animals are so "other." They're not that different from us in any way. The more we study them, the more we see our similarities. This week I read that apes use a form of charades to communicate with each other. Not so different!

This is why I'm SO AGAINST ZOOS! Dreadful idea to incarcerate these beings.

Have a wonderful holiday!!

Lynne said...

I'll take the blackish one with the orange splotches, please. Kittens are so cute and so full of the devil. You can see it in the eyes of the one in the second vid. He seems to be saying what can I get into next?

We have lots of goldfinches in our yard too, and their favorite food is the niger. They can eat loads in just one day! But I love their cheepy/chittery little songs.

Animals of all kinds are amazing. Just to watch the interaction of my dogs with my cats when they think I am not looking is very enlightening.

Great post, Letty! Enjoy your holiday in France! I am so envious! :)

Dumdad said...

Lovely kittens. Our cat, Scabby, had a litter of four kittens about five years ago. The kids loved them and it was fun. Each kitten, though, had a different father. I hadn't realised this could happen. So, Scabby is a slut but we love her. We gave the kittens away to friends and family so we know they're in safe hands.
Enjoy your hols.

The Devil Makes Work said...

I love're so lucky! Have a fab holiday, looking forward to seeing pics!

Ex-Shammickite said...

Wow, growing your own frogs from seed!
And the kits are sweet. I'd love to have another cat but my future daughter-in-law is very allergic and I'm worried that she'll never be able to visit me if I have a cat. So I continue living a cat-free life and just have to make do with other people's cats.

natural attrill said...

Aaaaaw, the kittens are sooo sweet, we used to have 6 cats, we now only have 2, they are 17, & 18 years old.......


la bellina mammina said...

Oh! Those kittens are sooooooooooooo adorable!! Used to grow up with cats and kittens, unfortunately, GAP is allergic to cats, so none now...:-(

Vintage to Victorian said...

Have a lovely holiday and when you return you'll see that I've awarded you the Nice Matters Award. See my blog for details.

Not a cat person, but those kittens DO look sweet!

Sue x

Akelamalu said...

I love watching the birds in our garden too.

Those 'ickle kitties are bootiful!

Have a great holiday and when you get back pop by my place and collect your Blogging Princess Award here

kimy said...

bon voyage! looking forward to new holiday pictures from your travels! hopefully there will be a kitten (or 2) left for you when you get back - so, so cute and I find with a kitten about one's spirits are always high! hope all the parties were marvelous! hippo birdie two awl!

Mike M said...

Great pictures!! Great post!! I love the kitty. Soooooooo cute!!

Pod said...

i have had so many heated debates with painty head bout the fatc that animals have felings and that just because we appear more 'civilised' doesn't mean we are superior in intelligence. some folk just don't get it.
the other morning as i was peggin out the washing (you should see my wonderfully unique pegbag..) i got surrounded by currawongs. i got a bit scared as i had actually watched 'the birds' the night before, so i ran in screaming 'sheila! sheila!' then i suddenly felt all silly....

Joyce said...

oooh, I love kittens so much that this post almost physically hurts!

trac said...

I seem to remember something about Pod and his kitten before!? :O)

Have a fab holiday...

See you when we are both back.

Steve said...

Animals are us, and we are animals! I'm not sure there's even a chain-link fence between us. I think the only barrier is a totally artificial product of our own minds.

LOVE the kittens. Makes me want another! (But mine would be very upset.)

Gary said...

The frog has really grown. I think back to when they were mere tadpoles. I tell ya, I love frogs. Anyway, I hope you are having a fantastic holiday and look forward to seeing the pictures upon your return.

Jay said...


Goodness, the cuteness factor is really through the roof.