Hmm, I wondered if that would get you to look up from your chocolate bunny for a moment…
It’s just that there are some very saucy things going on here right now and I feel compelled to share them. For the last few weeks the world outside my window has been full of shagging, shouting and sparring, and it’s all about eggs. Ah, Spring time. This is bird life at its most active.
I love this time of year more than ever for watching and listening to the garden birds. Throughout the day there is constant singing – blackbirds with their enchanting, melodic ditties, a song-thrush with its strange repertoire of repeated phrases, the little dunnock and its flutey speeded-up trills. They sound sweet to me but not so sweet to fellow members of their species who are no doubt hearing something along the lines of, “Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” and “Are you looking at my bird?” (see what I did there?) as well as the more aggressive, “This is my property now so you can all fuck off…”
If the singing (shouting) doesn’t put off their rivals there is plenty of swaggering to back it up. Dunnocks make me laugh the most – small, brown, fairly indistinctive and timid-looking the rest of the year, these characters are masters at macho posturing during breeding season. They puff themselves up and lower their heads in the manner of a muscle-bound hardnut about to headbutt someone. That’s when they’re not flapping their wings at each other like manic semaphore signallers. It’s all very showy and is perhaps a way to avoid violent confrontation, whereas blackbirds and robins get more combative and will fight dirty if they need to. Some conflicts have even been known to be fatal, but I’m glad to say I’ve never witnessed quite that extreme. The loss of some feathers, pride and the claim on the territory/mate in question is usually where it all ends.
As far as the sex goes it seems that woodpigeons and collared doves are the least inhibited. They’ll shag just about anywhere. Usually on our garden fence or on the neighbour’s roof. I’ll admit, rather blushingly, to being a bit of a voyeur here. It’s just that they have these fascinating little rituals and my interest in nature is such that I’m not going to get prudish about a bit of exhibitionist pigeon rumpy-pumpy. They seem to be the only group of birds who indulge in lengthy foreplay; some necking and nuzzling clearly gets them in the mood. Then she goes all submissive to him and he lets out a cry as he, ahem, ‘triumphs’. Once the deed is done they stick together too, in a kind of ‘afterglow’ moment I suppose; I half-expect each to pull a cigarette out from under its wing and have a post-coital puff.
A little further down the line, when all this sexual and violent intensity has calmed down a bit, the results of all the posturing, pugilism and fornication will make their debut into the world. I can’t wait. I’ll hear the first high-pitched peeping sounds from the nest box and find fragments of freckled or mottled eggshell by the hedge. Told you it was all about eggs.