For over a year we’ve had a tame blackbird living in our garden. With her pied plumage, she was easy to spot. More an honorary chicken than a blackbird, she would chide me if I was late in the morning
letting the chickens out letting her into the chicken run. Bold and confident (unless I had my camera out, in which case she was incredibly shy), she would not be bullied by chickens or dog.
A non-breeder and reluctant flyer, she spent all last summer living it up in the garden, pretending to be a chicken, while other blackbirds squabbled and procreated but generally stayed out of the way. This spring I thought she would team up with a male, but she lost out in a vicious fight with a rival female. She stayed put though – the successful pair bred elsewhere.
Then one day I came back from a dog walk to an awful sight – a circle of blackbird-sized pale feathers next to her favourite hedge. I spotted the sparrowhawk tucking into a meal in a nearby tree. For two days I kept looking for ‘my blackbird’, knowing the truth but not wishing to believe it.
Roll on a few weeks, and I’ve had the pleasure of watching the rival female build a nest against the fence in my forsythia hedge. Not one of my regular visitors, nevertheless she makes no attempt to hide her activities, and has put up with a noisy dog, the construction of a new chicken fence, and builders. Lots of builders – the garden looks more like a building site right now.
In a new development, a member of her first brood has found the nest. I often see it sitting on the fence, moping. Poor thing.
I can report today that the chicks have now hatched. The male gives me dirty looks before hopping onto the nest, but my new garden queen doesn’t care. The chicks are so quiet, you would never know they were there if their mother wasn’t so obvious. I spied them today though – there are at least three in the nest. I look forward to seeing them develop.
I miss my old friend, but life goes on. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.