Puzzled by Ghost Bird’s mutterings and murmurs, alien sounds to my untrained ear, I decided to ask him if these sounds meant anything. It suddenly occurred to me: the sounds might actually be Bird language; because of his accent, I mistakenly assumed he spoke a foreign, human language. He replied, that yes he was speaking a Bird language, from a land far away, a non European, warm country. He has learnt to speak several languages, both human and animal, during his many travels. Apparently, it’s what animals do, especially the migratory kinds; a lot like humans…. He’s a practical bird, I like that about him. He’s smart and resourceful and knows how to get what he needs, not afraid to ask for help, another very useful trait in life. Now that his health and mood are gradually improving, he’s started telling me more. We speak a mixture of Dutch-English with some French thrown in. When we cannot find the right word we ‘jiggle’ , a term we invented, meaning trying as many real/imaginary words we can come up with until the other does understand. It’s fun and you realize words are arbitrary, there’s a lot of giggling involved in the art of jiggling!
Another thing we enjoy doing together is watching the birds in the garden: a robin couple are out, a single wren, a pair of blackbirds, several great tits and blue tits, all picking at the earth in search of insects and seeds. They hop about and flutter and chase one another away; they chirp and make all kinds of noise. Noise to me at least, he can understand what they’re saying and does a lot of chuckling, which to me is incredibly frustrating ‘cos I don’t get it. Oh, he says, it’s not important, they’re just teasing each other and also there’s a lot of flirting going on. Yes! I say, so it’s very important and interesting: Translation please!! So the wren is drooling over the tiny juicy ant eggs and the robin is showing off in order to impress his new girl friend, whilst she’s deciding ‘is he The One?’ In the neighbour’s garden another robin is singing a delightful tune….The male blackbird meanwhile is ignoring his better half ‘cos she’s been complaining he’s not doing enough in the nest!! The tits, all of them are just SooooHappy the sun is finally out, they’re simply enjoying Food and Sun. It all looks idyllic, however whilst busy with all of the above each and every one of them is on the look out for Danger!!!!
As Ghost Bird explains:’ it’s all well and good being a free agent roaming the skies and dropping in in a stranger’s garden, feeding to your heart’s delight, perhaps even finding a place to build your nest, you can never let your guard down, you’ve got to keep your back covered, at all times. Otherwise you suffer the consquences....’ here, he shudders and lets out a painful sigh…..He doesn’t explain but you get the meaning, Something Dangerous happens (happened?)
You see, you really See what’s going on out there with Ghost Bird at your side.
illustrations by John Gould from Garden Birds, London 1952