Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Just One Songbird

Last week, in a leafless tree close to Dovecot Towers, I heard birdsong for the first time since moving in. A tiny plain brown bird was calling, plaintively and prettily, for a mate. Someone from the appreciative audience suggested it was a nightingale, or a song thrush, while mechanics from the local garage and passers-by listened to a little bird warbling his hopeless love-song.

New developments are built on sterile land, devoid of wildlife. The only furry creature roaming Dovecot Towers is a year old burger in the bin room. I’m not being dewy eyed and foolish. I hardly expect to stand on my balcony captivated by bunnies, shy deer protecting their fawns, or the bewitching vision of wild and flighty mustang ponies, but I’ve not seen not so much as a bumble bee around here.

When I lived in central Glasgow, there were wild beasts everywhere, providing a vivid demonstration of the food chain. In the nearby park, I saw pigeons, and mice scurrying around, which - as roadkill - were prey for the seagulls, themselves subsequently dinner for the foxes. I found myself trying to have a serious phone conversation, while a seagull landed on my window ledge, brandishing the bloody half a pigeon it was enjoying for lunch, and me screeching like a squeamish banshee. I watched a fox proudly trotting along, carrying a seagull (hopefully the same one) back for her cubs. Inevitably the raptors, like kites and sparrow hawks, will be next to occupy this urban des-res, exploiting a fantastic opportunity for fine dining. Once, I even heard an owl.

Glaswegian seagulls are huge, evil monsters. They dive-bomb pedestrians, and crap on your clean clothes when you’re off out somewhere fancy (and me with no shotgun.) The foxes of Glasgow are brilliant; proud vixens shepherd their cubs, trotting in the snow across busy streets, and at night they cry like babies. Wendy opened her front door and found a fox staring back expectantly: apparently it wanted some dinner.

Back in Dovecot Towers, the surroundings are barren: no birds, small animals, or predators, and I’ve never spotted a pigeon on my ledge, let alone hedgehogs in our pathetic lifeless ‘garden’ area. There’s nowhere for creatures to wander: no parks, or green spaces. Urban developments are unsuitable for humans or animal, and humans pay to live here. Wildlife boycotts the neighbourhood, so they must be cleverer than us.

I’ve noticed a quivering, inbred lap dog, stashed in a designer handbag carried by a posh girl from the penthouses, but larger pets aren’t really feasible. It would be cruel to confine them, which says so much about these flats; it’s too small for a cat. Rats never did condescend to move here, let alone desert us.

In the sixties, pioneer environmentalist Rachel Carson predicted that pesticides would silence Spring. DDT was banned, but newbuilds have almost fulfilled her prophecy. Already there’s no dawn chorus, and no avian choir at twilight: just a brave and solitary songbird to serenade the grateful residents.


dominican said...

Perhaps the local peregrine falcons nabbed its mate - I saw them (parent and two fledglings) demolish a pigeon whilst they were perched high up on a tower block near the river. The local kingfishers are probably too fast even for the peregrines. And the herons, Canada geese, cormorants, mallards and gulls are probably too big. Ok, these all all river birds; but the river can't be too far away. Pigeons are perfect for peregrines - hence their arrival. I hope however they don't discover the amazing roost of pied wagtails in St Anns Square - several hundred of them keeping warm over the winter.

RenterGirl said...

...all species judiciously avoiding urban newbuilds.