We had another visit by the bulbuls yesterday – they drop in every now and then. Only one this time and he just flitted around our tree a couple of minutes, said a few words and went on his way. The grand project to concrete over this planet has meant less and less room for other creatures, and even in my lifetime things have changed quite a bit. Twenty five years ago or so, here in Nagoya you could hear the uguisu‘s warble in the spring for a few days till he went on to the hills, but no more. There were swallows who built their nest under the eaves of a restaurant right on the corner of a busy crossroads near here, but they gave up when the place was done over a couple of years ago. Even so, there are still a few birds who come round to our small garden quite regularly. The bulbuls have been regular visitors this summer, turning up once a week or so, but they aren’t the only ones.
The sparrow is supposed to be disappearing from cities worldwide, but they’re pretty common round here, drinking the water from the dishes under our plants on the balcony and checking out the plants for insects, seeds or whatever it is that sparrows eat. Pigeons quite often come round in the spring to coo from a top branch of our tree. They are not T’s favourite bird, they leave big splashes of droppings on our entrance path and she doesn’t like the cooing either. Last year they tried to take over the bulbuls’ nest after they were finished with it, and this year built one of their own. Usually if you give the tree a good shake it will scare the birds out of it, and repeated a few times seemed to get rid of them last year, but this time they were more determined to stay put. Eventually I got a long bamboo pole and was just able to knock the nest down from our upstairs window. There were already two eggs in it, which got broken of course. This was why the pigeon in the nest had been so obstinate. I felt quite bad about it, and the pigeon looked heartbroken, sitting on a nearby power line for a while. They haven’t been back since, so I suppose they finally got the message.
Top of the food chain are the urban terrorists, the crows. Even we humans give them some respect – apart from being big, with long sharp beaks, they’re pretty intelligent. In the cities they’ve taken over, it’s pretty easy to make a living so they have free time to get up to all kinds of mischief. A while ago they were making more noise than usual and I found a whole load of them sitting on the power lines opposite our place, having a major conference or something. Then I looked down and saw a dead one on the road just below the electricity pole. Did it get electrocuted? Were they holding a funeral? Anyway, when you see them close up they’re big – getting on for the size of a chicken! They are really ravens rather than crows, I suppose.
Our favourites, though, would have to be the bulbuls. They’re not pretty or anything, and their voice isn’t what you’d call mellifluous, but they seem sort of friendly, and have taken to building their nest in our tree for the last few years. Apparently they prefer to build near human beings because it helps to keep the crows away. This year they took ages about it, but eventually a couple of chicks were hatched and left the nest at the end of June. A bit early, we thought, they still looked a bit small sitting in the tree branches and that evening there was an enormous downpour. The next morning T saw the parent birds flying anxiously around the gap between our place and next door. We feared the worst: did the rain wash the chicks down? Did one of the local cats get them? That seemed to be it.
However, a week later there were a couple of bulbuls sitting on a low branch of our “basho” tree, looking at me with their heads on one side and saying something. I don’t speak bulbul unfortunately. They looked a bit small to be the parents, so maybe the chicks survived after all? The same birds (I’m presuming they’re the same) have been back at irregular intervals throughout the summer, just for a couple of minutes, then off again. Is it the same pair who build that nest every year? Is it the same family? Has our tree just been marked as an OK place for bulbuls in general?