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Hip, Hop, Hippie to Hop
10th July 2023
“I said-a hip, hop, the hippie, to the hip hip hop-a you don’t stop, say up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.” A magnificent blackbird, all shimmering polished black feathers and vivid yellow beak is hopping across my lawn to the soundtrack of Rapper’s Delight playing in my head.
Have you ever noticed the different way birds move around your garden? The blackbird’s hop, hop, hop, stop listen then hop, hop, hop. I could come up with a soundtrack for each bird.
Starlings land in small flocks on my lawn and march with light-footed purpose, like a police search line spearing any grub within reach, using their sharp beaks. No doubt to the sounds of a military marching band.
The robin with its distinctive red breast, rocks up and performs it break dance of hop-stop, hop-stop. Dipping its head to snatch up an invisible grub, and then shaking all over. Hop-stop-duck and shake.
My house sparrows love to dust bathe and prefer the lawn after it’s dry and sun baked. Then they land in small groups and cluster round their handbags, scratching the ground in their lively energic dance, catching the groove.
Jackdaws are the bouncers on my disco lawn, they strut about upright and knowing in their smart black suits and greying hair. Confident and purposeful, they go about their business in a forthright manner, intermittently pecking here and there to make sure everyone notices.
I think thrushes feel the disco rhythm is beneath them, and only occasionally visit. Preferring instead, to have the dance floor to themselves, and then they perform the Argentine Tango; magnificently. Deliberate, and dramatic steps, they dance in sharp, staccato movements, with passion and purpose. Stride, stop, then, with an exaggerated body tilt, hold that pose (is everyone looking?), they swagger on with a glint in their eye.
A pied wagtail joins the group but doesn’t quite fit in. Not at all sure about itself, it twitches and darts nervously. Constantly bobbing up and down, in constant motion, it zips this way and that, never quite sure of its next move. It looks out of place on the dance floor, too dainty and shy, unable to cope being the centre of attention.
Pigeons are the stalwarts of the garden dance floor. Attending every dance since forever, they’ve been there and done it! As they waddle about, swaying to the beat but never quite walking, never quite dancing. Perhaps the years haven’t been kind to them, and their slightly plump bodies now make them a little clumsy and out of time with the music.
Out of the blue, the party’s disrupted by a ferocious ‘thwack!’ What was that? Everyone scatters and the violence on the dance floor is revealed. A sparrowhawk has just hit a bird so hard; it’s been knocked senseless. Party’s over. Time to go home.
It’s been fun thinking about all the different ways birds walk across my lawn and playing mind soundtracks to their movements. However, I do keep in mind that while my birds provide me with immense pleasure and joy, it’s vital I support them also.
The modern world presents many challenges for birds (and all wildlife), they need food, water, nesting sites and suitable habitat, which is all in short supply. I willingly work hard to provide all these things and as a result my disco lawn is packed every night. Are you ready for the slow one? All together now: “Every breath you take, and every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”