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Asylum Seekers: Now With Wings


By:Pem Charnley


It seems inconceivable that a bird table could lead to thoughts about asylum seeking, but this seems to be the case.

It all started innocently enough, of course. With winter now upon us, I thought it would be a nice idea to buy a bird table, to bring back memories of a childhood where my parents stuck some bacon rind up on a branch, bought me the Observer’s Book of Birds and left me to it.

Whichever hobby they decided on for me, there was always an Observer’s book involved and a hope that I would then get on with it.

Anyway, to the local shop for a bird table. Mightily expensive they turned out to be, so rather than a mahogany table, replete with eaves and a foot spa, we returned home with a round mesh with a stick in it and a packet of peanuts. I had attempted to go to the counter with bird seed, rather than peanuts. I was calmly informed that the seed was smaller than the mesh and would merely have left a trail.

Not a problem. Peanuts it was then and by day three, the birds arrived. Well, the Tit family anyway and that’s more than good enough for me. It really is a delight, and the children are as excited as I’d hoped they would be.

Hang on, one second… (“No dear, that’s not a Peregrine, that’s still a Great Tit!”)

So, as I say, we have, if nothing else, been inundated with the Tit family. We needed to identify the different breeds within this family, so a little bit of research has revealed that so far, we have had a Great Tit, a Blue Tit, a Coal Tit and also a Marsh Tit. No Crested Tit, though. These have grey-brown upper parts, whitish under parts and a black and white head with, funnily enough, a crest on it. These, you see, are only found in the Caledonian forests of Scotland and I live in the middle of Devon.

I know all this because I found a page on the Internet that allowed me learn this. The site is incredibly useful and you are even able to click on a link that allows you to hear their calls. Angling the computer speakers by the open window, clicking on one of the calls brings a whole new element to the proceedings. To see a Blue Tit hear a Curlew call over is to see a very confused garden bird indeed.

Now then, we have a Robin that has been getting friendly and I decided to look up the details on this most common of British birds and really, was quite staggered by the description given.

Apparently, the Robin is joined in the colder months by, and I quote, “immigrants from the continent.” So far, so good, nothing wrong with that. But it was the words that followed that had me wondering, for perhaps the first time in my life, about whether racism exists within ornithology.

These immigrants are “paler than ours, [and] have a duller red breast.” Now then, things are getting a bit personal, but not overly so.

What took my breath away was the fact that I am unlikely to see one of these Europeans because you see, they’re not friendly; they “skulk in woodlands.” Skulk?? I’ve never known a bird to skulk, personally.

Lordy, at any juncture, I expected berries and berets to become a deliberate typo. I’m not sure if the person who wrote this description is a Daily Mail reader, but a relaxing read about Britain’s national bird left me feeling uncomfortable, a little hot under the collar.

They state in the final paragraph that “Robins are territorial all the year round.”

It would appear they’re not the only ones…

© Copyright Holmes Charnley mmiv. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Freelance Journalist based in Devon-UK. For more examples of my work, please visit http://www.articles.me.uk. The two most recent pieces have been published in The Guardian (UK broadsheet.) Pieces also accepted by Jack magazine.

Article Source: http://www.redsofts.com/articles/




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