Tag Archives: Birds



After some years as finca sin nombre, farm with no name, on an unmarked track off an unmarked road, the farm now has a name: finquita los pajaros. Or finca los pajaritos. As the farm is small, and so are the majority of the birds, I don’t mind which one it ends up being. I use both in conversation and on official forms so the whole thinking and naming business has merely reduced the confusion not quashed it.

In English it sounds twee – little bird farm, conjuring up an image of the kind of place where there might be bird feeders and someone weeding with a fork and trowel, but no-one here speaks English and my neighbours approve. The three closest to me are naturalists, founts of all knowledge though not all of it correct. Although another family nearby still traps and eats songbirds.

Maybe that’s why so many hang out here. I actually had Hitchcock’s The Birds in mind. Swallows, house martins and sparrows had the run of the house for some decades before I pushed open the door wearing hazard gear and carrying a mop, and during the first spring and summer, birds persisted in nesting in the long room. I’d wake up to swallows like spy drones outside the window, and large numbers of fledglings fell down the chimneys and were taken off by the cat, or fluttered off and hid in shoes or drawers. Now sparrows nest under the roof tiles making noises like fingernails down chalkboards, but spend the days – in their hundreds – in the fruit trees beside the house, tetchy, hopping mad, giving the evil eye, waiting for the chance to peck holes in the apricots.

All doors and windows are open, and will be til October, and so the swallows swoop low over my head as I work. Yesterday a jilguero flew in and hit a wall, but was okay. And at night, especially when the moon is bright, the air is loud with the mewing of little owls, and the low whoops of the eagle owls, out there killing stuff.

So those were the birds I had in mind. Proprietorial birds that tolerate my presence with bad grace. I’ve left great swathes of the farm wild for them, and never use pesticides, and in return they live here and sing, but I know they want the house back.


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Last year when we moved into the farmhouse the only occupants of the grain loft were house martins and house sparrows. I waited and waited until all their eggs had hatched, and all the hatchlings had cleared off, and then quite a long time to be sure, before starting to reclaim the space and turn it into somewhere to sleep. Glass was put in the windows, and to prevent birds from flying into it, I strung a whole load of CDs together and dangled them from the frame. Twisting and turning in the bright light they were pretty discouraging, and disconcertingly hippyesque.
One year on I woke to find birds flying round the room. If it wasn’t for the cats – that is, cat, I might have been tempted to share the space, but I closed the window. And every morning for the last couple of weeks they have been doing irate fly-bys, shaking a metaphorical fist through the glass at the invader.

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Tweeting from the Osa

Actually I should have called this pecking order. Their social hierarchy is clear. The flashiest of them all, the scarlet-rumped tanager, is lowest of the low; the flycatcher (yellow, don’t know what sort, will ask a guide) that is not afraid to buzz me or Carmen as we pass under any frond it happens to be perched on, is terrified by the orange-chested bird, which I think is the female tanager (poor Mr Tanager). All day long this bit of this palm is occupied; occasionally all three are sitting there, in a spirit of uneasy mutual toleration.

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