English Summer Evening

Here we are… A Bank Holiday weekend and the sun is shining; which breaks just about every piece of weather lore known to the average Englishman. Suddenly the country is awash with bloom and the traditional sounds of willow striking leather can be heard on village greens – at least I assume they can… We don’t have much of a village green in East Finchley Village! I did, however, get to watch some cricket on the television as England bowled out New Zealand for 174 and then decided to bat again when the smart money would have seen New Zealand being asked to follow-on. Not sure why that decision was taken when it can only be a matter of time before rain stops play 😦

Anyway, one of my joys on a calm summer evening is to sit out in the back garden as darkness falls and listen to sounds at days end. The birds can be heard making their last territorial claims of the day – the Blackbird from a tv aerial and the Robin from a branch in the Rowan. No sounds from the Pigeons. They’ve long since retired to roost. Beyond, I hear the distant sound of traffic on the North Circular Road; a bit like waves washing on the shore which lends an illusion of being on an island out at sea. There are no human voices – Everyone else is watching tv indoors. Even the few late inbound aircraft to Heathrow pass almost unheard as if not wishing to disturb the peaceful earth below. Only the occasional motorcycle with its insistant drone serves to break the spell.

As darkness settles the passage of a cat along the fences at the foot of the gardens is marked by the angry tutting from Robins and Wrens – A warning system that identifies the intruder’s position with such accuracy that I know with certainty when the cat enters my garden and am able to watch as it sneaks behind my shed -A white and grey visitor that I don’t recognise. The tutting, reminiscent of a geiger counter gradually fades as the cat progresses further down the gardens and the muted evening singing returns.

Then, at 10pm sharp – so sharp that it seems as if a switch has been turned off – The singing stops. Even the Robins fall silent and all that is left is the muted distant traffic. Time for me also to retire indoors and call it a day 🙂

Having spoken so long about Robins, I guess an update on the brood in my shed is in order. Sadly, one died in the shed. It had found its way into a box where it was trapped and its mother couldn’t find it. I had been checking every morning – just a quick look through the door so when they left the nest later in the day I wouldn’t have found out until the next morning. For a young bird, an hour can be too long without food. Of the others, two had safely left the shed. The third survivor had got its leg trapped between the handles of a rake and a hoe in the corner by the door – there are so many hazards other than cats for young birds 😦 I was able to free it and then I had to move a lot of my tools to make it visible to its mother. She popped into the shed while I was doing this and clearly wasn’t distressed by my efforts (Robins in England generally trust humans and are very good at looking after their offspring). Finding the youngster down in the cobwebs and general detritus, I picked it up gently – which resulted in a high pitched shriek but no pecks (unlike some other species – Budgies come to mind). The leg it had been hanging by was stretched out behind and looked like it might have been dislocated at the hip – I wasn’t too worried about that; we used to have a female Sparrow with a dislocated hip that had no problem keeping up with the rest of the flock! I settled the youngster on my workbench and left it for an hour to see whether the mother would return to feed it. After the hour I went back to find that it had left the bench and was on the floor below – not good as it would not be easy to find down there. So, once agin, I picked it up and this time resolved to take it out of the shed. Carrying it gently in my hands I walked out to a point where I knew I was visible to the mother and I opened my hands to show the live youngster with its dodgy leg. At this point it took wing and flew to a nice clump of bushes in the garden. I left it there and returned indoors to observe. Very soon afterwards the mother Robin was down there feeding her child. The following morning things were looking decidedly better, the leg was now facing the right way again. By the end of the day the youngster was making its way across gardens from one piece of cover to the next 🙂 The Robins are now feeding youngsters in two different large bushes and I hope all three will grow to become adults. In the photo below my rescued Robin stands proud on a petrol can that I removed from the shed…
Baby Robin


  1. Martin, I am so happy to hear the joys of summer have at last made themselves seen, heard and felt. It has been such a long winter hasn’t it? Absolutely delightful photo and nothing like the smell of cut grass in the warm afternoon. The rescued Robin? What a bonus!

    1. More like the smell of freshly dug earth – I’m giving the garden a major makeover Patti! All of which is great for Mrs Robin but not so good for the centipedes, worms and other small critters that I’ve disturbed – The chicks are getting plenty of fresh meat 🙂 Anyway, the rain is back this morning – I guess the plants I put in pots yesterday afternoon need it but I don’t think the rest of us do 😦

  2. I’m delighted to hear of your devotion to your nesting birds. I’m watching two robin’s nests in my yard right now, waiting for eggs to appear. I always feel like a proud grandmother when the babies survive and leave the nest safe and sound.

    1. HI Donna – I always feel like I’ve lost one of my own when one of the chicks doesn’t make it. It looks like the sparrows and starlings have had a successful, if late, breeding season too. There are 4 young Starlings in the tree outside as I write this response 🙂

  3. I really appreciate the way you describe fully drinking in the beauty of the summer evenings. We spend as much time as we can outdoors, and I love the different slant of light that dusk presents this time of year. I can’t say that we have much of a showing from the birds in the late afternoon/early evening. I see them on the waterfall taking their baths before bed, but they’re quiet about it! 🙂 Thank you for the update on your little family of Robins…so sorry that one was lost, but then you also had some little miracles. Lovely story.

    1. Thanks Debra – sadly the weather has closed in again so that’s the end of my sitting out there for a few days! Sounds like you have a very nice spot to watch the birds on the waterfall – I now have a mental picture of the birds queuing up with towels under wings and toothbrushes in beaks! 🙂

  4. Sadly nature can indeed be very brutal…
    a bit tough to take when you grow attached to particular animal(s) (I was very sorry to hear about the loss of the first bird). 😦 It’s pretty incredible that you were able to help out its injured sibling with such great success, though! And if the Robins had not had the shelter of your building, who knows (something tells me things would have been much, much more difficult for them)!

    1. Red in Tooth and Claw… as Kipling put it. We try to look after the wildlife in our garden but especially the birds. The biggest menace is, as always, neighbors cats. So I try to discourage them during the breeding season by occasionally coming out with a super-soaker 😉

  5. Kipling was quite right. I was fascinated that all your birds know how to tell time, and go to sleep promptly at ten!
    Altogether a lovely account, somehow to me very English, a very English summer evening.
    (Hope the rain stops and you’ll have more of those.)

    1. Thanks Judith – the sun returned on Friday lunchtime after a grey morning and it has been a nice weekend 🙂 I suspect that 10:00 just magically coincided with the light level at which the birds go to bed. This week it’ll probably be a bit later as the day grows longer.

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