A host of sparrows in our garden

Photo:The 'Sparrow Tree' in summer

The 'Sparrow Tree' in summer

Photo from Brian Cheesman's collection

Photo:The 'Sparrow Tree' in winter

The 'Sparrow Tree' in winter

Photo from Brian Cheesman's collection

In Kensington Place

By Brian & Bobbie Cheesman, North Laine residents

We have a magic tree in our front garden at the Trafalgar Street end of Kensington Place in North Laine. We call it the Sparrow Tree but it is in fact entwined Honeysuckle and Forsythia.   

It started with a bird feeder

It came about some time ago when we started putting out a bird feeder for the few sparrows that lived in North Laine. Now and again it would attract the odd local tit in the dawn until the small group of possessive sparrows arrived back from wherever.

The sparrows came to feed

They roosted for the night and came to feed. They would flit from hedge to bush, from door frame roses to the sheltered backyards bordering Trafalgar Lane and yet returned to roost within the tree. Then at an appointed hour they would take flight, perhaps taking their cue from the evening swarm of starlings over the far off piers, and head off into the approaching night. We thought the winter cold would end the relationship. Pundits talked of water and food for our feathered friends, so more fat balls were placed within the twiggy framework of the tree. It seemed pitiful to see them lurking in the snowy blowy days and to wonder why they never flew to somewhere warmer, somewhere new.

Numbers grew in the spring

With the spring, the numbers began to grow. Instead of the once-accustomed chirp, there was now a chattering – as if original parents had bought their young along and introduced them to the overgrown sheltered nest. We discovered how apt the word for a group of sparrows a ‘host’ was.  Soon, however, the branches looked quite bare with all the beak sharpening and squabbling and whenever spooked, swishing wings would head into the nearby evergreen hedge. Life for them was not without problems. Nearby cats would come to gaze hungrily at potential meals on wings and an exodus to the evergreen was called for.   Then the sparrowhawk came to call and caused a cacophony of indignant noise.

Passers-by stop to watch them

Passers-by now stop to see the sparrow bedecked tree – often pointing out to open-mouthed children the busy bird life up above.  Customers seated outside corner cafés, ‘Aldo’s’ and ‘The Laine Deli’,  pause in conversation to discover the source of the animated sparrow-talk, whilst enchanted neighbours help to feed the increasingly numerous host of sparrows in the magical Sparrow Tree at the end of Kensington Place in North Laine.

[Previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 222, May/June 2013]

This page was added on 17/06/2013.

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