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 on official forms and sometimes nothing so the whole thinking and naming business has merely focused in on the confusion not entirely quashed it.

In English it sounds twee – little bird farm. It conjures up an image of a place where there might be bird feeders and someone weeding with a fork and trowel. But no-one speaks English. And the neighbours don’t disapprove. The three closest to me are naturalists, founts of all knowledge though not all of it correct. There’s a farm nearby where they still trap and eat songbirds which is maybe why so many birds prefer to congregate here.

I 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 – spy drones hovering outside the window, and fledglings were constantly falling down the chimneys and being taken off by the cat, or making their fluttery way to hide in shoes or drawers. Sparrows nest under the roof tiles, claws scrabbling for purchase like fingernails on a blackboard, and spend the days – in their hundreds – in the fruit trees beside the house, hopping tetchily, giving the evil eye, waiting for the chance to peck holes in the apricots. Or anything.

All doors and windows are open and will be until October, so the swallows swoop low over my head while I work each morning. Yesterday a jilguero flew in and hit a wall, but after a brief stunned pause, was well enough to evade my helping hands. And at night, especially when the moon is bright, the air is loud with the mewing of little owls, and the low huhs 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 I 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 flown, and then for a long time to be sure, before reclaiming the space and turning it into somewhere to sleep. I had glass put in the windows and, to prevent birds from flying into it, I made strings of CDs and dangled them from the frame. Twisting and turning in the bright light the CD strings gave the farm the look of a hippy squat and discouraged the birds.
One year on I woke to find birds flying round the room. If it wasn’t for the cats I might even have been tempted to share the space but I closed the window to be kind. Now every morning they do fly-bys, giving the evil eye and 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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