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.