Coun­try Mouse

A wel­come vis­i­tor

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

THERE is just about enough light in the east­ern sky at 7.15am for me to walk the ter­ri­ers be­fore leav­ing for work and, al­though it’s still half an hour be­fore sun­rise, many birds are now singing. The pi­geons burst chaot­i­cally from their roosts, smash­ing into the fo­liage, hav­ing learnt to fear the ap­proach of Man. Mean­while the old crow bows and caws its dis­gust at the three of us from the top of a tele­graph pole.

Ig­nor­ing us, the song­birds are more in­tent on form­ing an orchestra than flight and settle on var­i­ous van­tage points to per­form. One mourn­ful call was un­fa­mil­iar un­til I spot­ted the bullfinch. Built like an avian front-row for­ward with black skull­cap and pink jersey, it is, nev­er­the­less, beau­ti­ful. Bullfinches can im­i­tate sounds and were of­ten kept as cage birds— in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’urbervilles, the tragic hero­ine is em­ployed to whis­tle to the bullfinches for her mis­tress, Mrs d’urberville.

Un­til rel­a­tively re­cently, bullfinches were con­sid­ered se­ri­ous agri­cul­tural pests for eat­ing the flower buds of fruit­ing trees and many thou­sands were killed. I’ve seen but a hand­ful in my life and it was a rare priv­i­lege to see that they have joined our lit­tle par­ish. MH

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