We all know that infuriating habit that bird books have of opening on the page of the hoopoe –as if to reproach you for being insufficiently observant to spot this marvellous creature. In fact it has always seemed that we were as likely to identify a duck billed platypus in the back garden as the exotic upupa epops until . . . .we arrived home in the car the other day and had to pull up sharply in the lane to avoid squashing one! It was totally unfazed by us and the car and continued to potter around on the bank between the lane and the courtyard wall. It has been back a couple of times since then and we have been able to admire this truly beautiful bird at close range. A friend told us that they are known to be remarkably docile and unsuspicious of humans, which apparently accounts for the number of specimens to be found stuffed and mounted!
The same cannot be said for the borderline hysterical couple of redstarts which chose to build their nest over the doorway into one of the cellars opening off the covered terrace. Things were tense whilst the female was sitting on the eggs, but once the nestlings had hatched, the pair became dementedly protective, launching into a cacophony of high pitched squawks and disapproving beak-clicking and chattering whenever we passed through or near the doorway. They never seemed to get the point that we wished them no harm and that they would be better advised to pay more attention to Roger’s cats who took to strolling meditatively through the courtyard, ears cocked, several times a day!
It was all rather stressful, but happily everything went well and the last fledgling launched itself into the world off the roof beam yesterday, leaving us with unrestricted use of the terrace again. Later in the day, however, there were worrying signs of other couples, or maybe the same one, house hunting. Maybe we should invite the cats over in a show of force.