Everyone knows I love birds. I will stop mid-conversation to watch a buzzard soaring majestically above me. I have narrowly avoided driving into hedges having been distracted by a kestrel or formation-flying geese. I even have Emma Bridgewater Bird Fabric covering my dining chairs! Bird poses are my favourite yoga poses: pigeon, king pigeon, bird of paradise, heron, eagle…
In the last week I have killed two blackbirds in separate incidents. One whilst driving to work and the other on the way to orchestra. Each time I’ve been utterly mortified and howled my way onward to my destination.
Ahimsa, meaning non-violence, is the first Yama (restraint) in the first of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. In my mind it means kindness and respect for all living creatures. I showed neither kindness or respect when I ploughed my car into my winged friends at 50mph. On the one hand, the birds were flying very low across the road, but on the other hand I would perhaps have been able to brake if I’d not been going so fast.
I racked my brains to think of something I could do to put something into nature as a tribute to the poor creatures whose lives I took. I even spoke to my sister about it. She thinks I’m a bit mental. My friend Melanie understood, which spurred me on and I finally decided I was going to join the RSPB and pay a monthly fee to try to ease my conscience. Something still didn’t feel right though…
I related all this to my husband the other night who came up with a much better idea, one that would actually involve some effort from me and that I would be responsible for. He’s very clever, my husband. He’s one of the most zen people I know.
He suggested that we consciously enhance our garden to turn it into a proper bird haven, as opposed to assorted feeders hanging off trees and hoping that the birds will come. We are lucky enough to live by St Wulstan’s Nature Reserve on the slopes of the Malvern Hills. We have various bird visitors at all times of year and some daily visitors who can keep us distracted for hours. As I write there is a chaffinch in the bird house eating pink suet pellets. We have three cats, but that doesn’t seem to bother the birds.
My husband’s idea is to put some nesting boxes high up in the trees, away from the cats, in time for spring nesting. We want to place the feeders more intelligently and get the squirrel his own feeding platform so he stops having to vacuum seeds from one of the feeders. We’re going to have plants and shrubs that attract birds so they get a wide variety of places to roost and different berries to eat.
I feel much more positive now that I can give something back to the birds in a personal way and contribute to their well-being, at least in our little corner of the Earth.