Two months into lockdown I was awoken in the early hours of the morning by the sound of a heart stopping shriek coming from our garden. 

I peered out of our bedroom window and saw a crow perched on the branches of our apple tree.  The uncanny noise was coming from him (her?) and I can only describe it as crying. On the lawn I saw a large pile of black feathers.  The bird cried and cried – clearly mourning its loss of a partner or a parent.  The sound was heart rending.  It continued for a very long time before it finally stopped and only then was I able to get back to sleep.

The next morning I went out into the garden and witnessed the pile of feathers though fortunately could not see any body bits.  I gingerly swept the lot up and put it into our garden bin.

Since then I have learned a lot about crows because two have become regular visitors to our garden. Carrion crows form monogamous pairs, who stay together for life so we are probably witnessing a crow partnership.  Maybe the one I saw being mourned  was a crow baby that had been got at by a fox or a cat? Or did one crow lose his/her partner and quickly found another one?

I watch the crows from our kitchen window as they come and go throughout the day. Usually they bring their own bread and dip it into our bird bath before eating.  I am sure my blog followers will know that birds should not be given dry bread but will happily and safely eat bread when it’s wet. This is because the food swells in their stomachs and would very likely kill them. However, if you pre-soak the bread then it is already swollen and thus causes no damage. If I do nothing else today, this information of mine might save some poor bird’s life.

A number of times we have seen the crows with bagels.   Not the mini bagels. Full size ones.  I kid you not. The other day one of them brought a toasted bagel!  Left it in the bird bath to soften and then returned for it later. The bagel was so big that it took up the whole of the bird bath thus deterring other birds of being able to use it.  Have you noticed that there is definitely a hierarchy  of birds?  The smaller birds kowtow to the bigger ones.  Crows get first dibs at the bird bath, followed by doves and pigeons.  Smaller birds come much lower down in the pecking order – maybe that’s where the expression pecking order originally came from?

Another interesting expression is, “stone the crows”.  The older ones among you will remember that this expression was popularised in the 50s and 60s by the radio and television comedian, Tony Hancock (1924-68). He tended to use it in its shortened form of “stone me!” It’s an exclamation of amazement, disbelief or disgust as in, “stone me – the crow’s taken my bagel!” I’d be pleased to hear from anyone out there who has any idea how this expression might have originated.

It’s fascinating watching the antics of the crows.  I’ve seen them hide food in our hedge and return for it at another time.  The other day I saw one of the crows  searching for something he had hidden in the guttering just outside my study window. Suddenly he swooped down and picked up a large digestive biscuit and promptly flew off with it in his beak. I do wonder where they’re getting all this stuff from? I find it hard to believe that someone out there is feeding the birds digestive biscuits and bagels! Yesterday we noticed that our bird bath was suddenly attracting wasps.  I looked closer and discovered that the edges of the bird bath were smeared with jam – presumably from the stolen bagel!

Bird watching has always given me pleasure. But never more so than in lockdown.  If the bird bath dries out I’ll fill it up with water so that the crows have somewhere to dunk their bread. Other birds visit too.  There is a big fat collared dove who likes to drink from the bird bath. He then turns his back  and poos in it.  The dove is so fat that the bird bath basin wobbles when he sits on it. He also displaces all the water and I end up having to refill it – at the same time clearing out the poo, though I don’t think poo in the bird bath is any kind of deterrent to the crows and all the other birds who visit it on a regular basis.

When I was at school we learned a song about a carrion crow. “A carrion crow sat on an oak, derry derry derry derry down o – watching a tailor mend a cloak” is how it went. In music lessons we all had a song book.  The boys in our class took great pleasure in going through the book and altering the words in the song titles. “Where The Bee Sucks There Suck I”, from The Tempest (Shakespeare) was a favourite.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:
In a cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.   
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
I bet they don’t teach today’s kids songs like that any more! Just as well.

Time for some bird spotting. See you later!










© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems












One of the few bonuses in this world wide lockdown is that we are all now able to take pleasure from beautiful birdsong.

And that was true for me too until last weekend when our dear neighbour decided to cut down a magnificent tree in his back garden.  Apologies for not knowing what tree it actually was. Suffice to say it was beautiful.  I would lie in bed and look at it swaying in the breeze, watching the birds flying to and fro from its branches. I had often thought that if I ever became so ill that I had to remain in bed that, at least, I would have this wonderful tree to enjoy.

Alas, no more.  A group of men – not socially distancing naturally – have been noisily working on the tree all week.  We have been unable to sit outside in this unseasonably good weather because of the ear splitting noise from their chainsaws. (The sound of their tools reminds me that I am well overdue for an appointment at the dentist.)  To make matters worse, we have had the incessant sound of their tinny pop music plus having to put up with all their mindless banter which passes for conversation.

Today the tree has gone. Disappeared. It as if it was never there. But the noise continues as they saw up the branches so that all the debris can all be transported away.  Aside from the tragic loss of this ancient tree – which I am sure would have been under a  preservation order or suchlike – I think of the loss to all the wildlife who must have made it their home.

I remembered this poem, “Trees”, by Alfred Joyce Kilmer who was killed in action in 1918. At least, I remembered the first two lines. The remainder I had to look up.


I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree.


A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;


A tree that looks at God all day,

And lifts her leafy arms to pray;


A tree that may in Summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;


Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.


Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.



With the advent of Covid-19 most of us have no doubt been going through all the stages of grief.  Denial, anger, depression and acceptance. The loss of this magnificent tree has made me feel quite bereft. It is a form of bereavement perhaps made even more intense by what we are all currently experiencing.

At any other time, OH (other half) and I would probably would have made a fuss – protested to our neighbour or to the local authority in one way or another.  Because this tree, like all the trees in the nearby gardens, was meant to be protected. Preserved. Left alone.

But now one thinks. Get over it. It’s not a human being. However beautiful it was, it was only a tree.

Much better to get upset over the estimated 178,658 thousand human beings who have died so far from Covid-19.

© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems




Thoughts on a dead cat

When our cat was alive he terrorised all the birds, mice and frogs in the neighbourhood.  If you have read my poem, “A violent death” you will know what I am talking about.

Once he had died, our garden became a haven for wild life.

I miss my cat of course but I get a great deal of pleasure from observing the birds who visit our garden.  In the winter I put out food for them.

Whenever I am doing any sort of gardening or even just pottering in the garden, one little robin always keeps me company.  He’s very tame and comes so close I could reach out and touch him. I like to think it’s always the same robin – but who knows?

It makes me think of the little girl who was befriended by a robin in that wonderful children’s book by Frances Hodgson Burnett,  “The Secret Garden”.

The photo below shows “my” robin perched on top of a bucket in the snow.

I thought how, in the days when our cat was alive, this simple pleasure would not have been there for me. And I wrote this poem:


My cat is sleeping.

Just as well

he can’t see the robin

boldly standing there.

Once upon a time

no bird would dare

to venture near.

But my cat is sleeping now

And has been

For a long long time.

A lump of stone

marks his last resting place.


© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems