house sparrow
Celebrating the Birds and the Bees at Boarbank!

Despite all the sadness and anxiety, lockdown has brought us some opportunities.

For many of us, it has been a chance to look much more slowly and carefully at familiar places, and perhaps enjoy them during unaccustomed quiet.

We have been able to hear the birds and had time to appreciate the flowers. And they, like us, have been breathing cleaner air.

 Buttercup Birds foot trefoil 

We have all had to adapt, and many of us have learnt for the first time how to use Zoom! We put this to good use in offering our first virtual Boarbank course, a weekend replacement for Two Wings and A Prayer.

Thanks to our marvellous technical and liturgical team, Karen and John, a group of us were able to share prayers together, and conversations on the themes of birds, ecology and faith, interspersed with plenty of time for checking what was going on in our gardens!

2 wings slide 1  2 wings slide 2 

Margaret Phillips led sessions on learning birdsong (don’t panic - just do it slowly - one at a time!) and on creating a bird-friendly garden (think: food, water, shelter, nests), using photos of her own garden to illustrate.

Listen to these house sparrows

And also to the blackbird from Catherine Emley, certainly worth a listen...

 Mindful of the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, Sr Margaret introduced a discussion of her online talk Green ... because I’m Catholic?, which focused on what we can do as members of the Church to inspire the great changes we need in order to care for our common home.

(For some thoughts on this by Sr Margaret, see OUT OF THE BLUE )

Samantha Rhydderch (see and Sr Margaret led a session on the poetry of birds, with contributions from the participants (for a taste, you might enjoy this humorous poem, by our friend JULIA GRIFFIN ).

We ended by each making a pledge to do one thing - learn one birdsong, improve our birdfeed, make a pond, or whatever - before we can meet in person (please God!) for our next Two Wings.

A glossy starling in the sunshineA glossy starling in the sunshine
A very big thank you especially to John, Karen, Margaret and Samantha.

Meanwhile, it has been a wonderful spring and early summer for gardening, and for wildflowers, though, of course, we could do with more rain. I expect some of you have been taking the chance to grow your own vegetables. Don’t stop when lockdown is over! We are thinking hard about how to make our garden even greener - from better composting techniques to improve the soil, to continued insect-and-bee-friendly planting, to an extra pond.

If you want just one tip for encouraging bees (and improving salads), plant chives!

An update on the blue tits. I noticed how the chicks’ calls have developed from a tiny high-pitched sound to a louder high-pitched sound to now when they are deeper, very loud and quite like the adults. But also, now they are bigger, if the adult sees me on leaving the nest, he/she immediately gives a loud alarm call, which wasn’t happening before. So I suppose the chicks are now old enough to understand and respond to such calls, and maybe also old enough to try to get out of the nest. I hope I don’t miss the first flights - but I probably will as I’m not inside all the time now!

Chive flowers

 and to finish...

Rare birds are, obviously, not often seen in suburban gardens, so our attention has been concentrated on observing the behaviour of the 'less rare'.

These sparrows nearly ate me out of house and home in mealworms, and most of it was dropped from the feeder for the hungry pigeons underneath to mop up! That is, if the starlings didn't get there first.

Get a bird feeder or two. Entertainment value - dix points!