We had some hot days in February and March this year, and so I’ve been making sure that our various bird baths are always filled with clean water. I love watching the birds swooping down on our garden at various times of the day – it is one of the delights of working from home. Two years ago, I’d made a list of all the birds that regularly visited our garden – have a look here. One of the birds we – oddly – hadn’t noticed at the time were the red-winged starlings.
Mind you, they’re commonly regarded as pests, and I’d quite had my fill of them during my months of working at the University of Cape Town, where they sat on – erm, and shat on – every single window sill… – so I never developed much affection towards them.
I still have vivid memories of a certain incident involving a red-winged starling.
Some friends and I were sitting peacefully at the restaurant at Rhodes Memorial, looking out over the city of Cape Town. I was feeling quite content and happy with my lot, and munching my way through a warm muffin with butter, cheese, jam and cream, which I had just oh-so-carefully piled onto each half, when — wooosh! kerplunk! flatter-flapper-flutter!!– a red-winged starling literally dive-bombed my plate.
It crash-landed right on my masterpiece, picked up a huuuge chunk in its beak, launched itself back into the air, and landed on a nearby tree – where it proceeded to devour my muffin with carefree recklessness. Peck-peck-peck – and it was gone. Jam, cheese and cream included. All gone.
As you can imagine, we kinda lost our appetite. There was tea and coffee splashed everywhere, sticky crumbs all over the place, and the table cloth was spattered in jam and cream. If I recall correctly, it took me a number of years to get over this incident sufficiently to visit that particular restaurant again. And when we did, I made sure that I shielded my food with my entire body from the marauding scavengers of the sky!
As a result, it’s quite possible that I subconsciously blanked out their visits to our garden. Well, until I spotted one having a vigorous bath in our water fountain one sweltering afternoon.
As you can see, these birds do everything with great gusto – droplets were showering everywhere! It was just as well the fountain was switched on, with water bubbling down from the top of the cherub’s head, otherwise it would’ve been empty within a couple of minutes.