Island Blog 23 – Fur and Feathers

This morning I watched a magpie fly against the luffing of a growing wind with a twig in its beak. 

It’s January!  I called into the sky.  You daft eejit.

But, it was warm this morning, warmer than of late and as I stopped to notice the birdsong filling my ears, I realised they were all at it.

Spring talk.

When we lodged briefly (but not briefly enough) in Glasgow, in a third floor flat on the south side, this blackbird kept me awake at nights.  I would stomp to the window in a sleepy grump to fling open the curtains with a view to barking some ‘shut up’ comment, as if that would have made any difference.  Instead, I watched it on a branch, its beak working away and from that small assemblage of bone and feathers came the most beautiful melody.  Of course, I thought, its those awful street lights that confuse you my friend.  They confuse me too, shining like super troopers right outside the bedroom window so that even the nasty chocolate velour curtains can’t hold back the noisy orange shout of light.  I come, after all, from an island where day is day and there’s a brightness about those hours, whatever the weather, and where nights grow gently dark, falling into a soft black that blinds us all and sends us running home for tea, to warm fires and golden lamplight and something to watch on the telly.

Back to the magpie.  It landed in the top of a big pine tree. The outstretched branches floated about like tentacles underwater as the wind grew muscle.  I listened to the squeaking of wood on wood and wondered where on earth among those dancing limbs this daft magpie planned to lay its first stick.

As I watched, another magpie disappeared within the, now frantic waving of needled arms, and for a moment all was quiet.

Then I saw the squirrel.

It hurtled up the trunk stopping every so often to wiggle its tail at no-one in particular, although if I know anything at all about tails, a certain sort of wiggle is definitely a warning.

Still no action from the magpies, although I could hear their conversation somewhere out of sight.

Suddenly the tree exploded.  There was a great deal of animal shrieking and swearing, and two magpies burst outwards from the tree, flipping out and over and away leaving behind what sounded like a trail of expletives.

I waited.

The squirrel appeared and ran along one of the upper branches, one particularly outstretched one, now completely at the mercy of the wind.  As it got almost to the end (to see where the magpies had gone perhaps), a big gust caught the branch and turned it into a trebouchet with the squirrel as ammo.  Catapulted into space it made a perfect flying arc and disappeared into the neighbour’s garden.

I giggled, although I don’t suppose the squirrel did.

Moments later it appeared on the fence and chirruped something at me; something, I fancy, like

‘What the hell are you sniggering about lady?’

How to Win Friends and Influence People sprang to mind, but I said nothing.

Time for coffee.

Island Blog 23 - Flying Squirrel -


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