You need hands...

Just thought I’d post this short tale before heading offline and on vacation.

For the last few days, a Chiffchaff has been calling from a group of tall trees in our new garden. It’s the first I’ve heard for many weeks. The last one I saw I spied through a cellar window. He or she was foraging in one of the sitting areas we have outside and there we were, nose-to-beak so to speak, with only a pane of glass separating us. Helpfully, I could see the Chiffchaff but the Chiffchaff couldn’t see me.

Early this week, I was sitting on a bench outside in the sunshine smoking a cigarette, having promised my partner that our new home will be smoke free. Looking up at a first-floor window, I noticed what I thought was a House sparrow—a spatz is the local term—hunting for insects. Then it came down, bounced off the plane tree and landed on the cobbles, right at my feet.

It was a Chiffchaff.

He or she simply sat there immobilised, and I realised that what I had thought was hunting was actually something like a spasm following a collision with that window. There were no cats around, but for safety’s sake, I picked the bird up; easily, which is rarely a good sign. I cupped it in my hands and walked around to the back of the house to call my partner, but she didn’t hear me through her office window.

I kept the bird in my hands, but opened them occasionally. It made no attempt to ‘escape’, and once or twice opened and closed its beak (again, rarely a good sign, I thought). Then, as I opened my hands for, perhaps, the fourth or fifth time, the bird flew adeptly a few meters to a rose standard, and perched on the lowest branch. Seconds later, it left.

Now, in my small, simple, ideal world, I tell myself that the Chiffchaff calling from the trees is that very same bird. And I think how very fortunate it was to have landed right at my feet. And while I know that smoking is very bad for one’s health, I can see that—if one’s a Chiffchaff—it can be quite useful at times.

All the best –


  • A nice story, Dave. I do like the way you look at the world and have a different slant on things. I'm always surprised how birds that are stunned by flying into windows appear to make a full recovery and fly off seemingly unharmed. Perhaps he will return to your garden next year after spending the winter further south.

    Dave - CH said:
    For the last few days, a Chiffchaff has been calling from a group of tall trees in our new garden

    Coincidentally, I heard a "hueet" call from my garden but was unsure whether it was a contact call of a Chiffchaff or a Chaffinch as they can be somewhat similar. Then to my surprise I heard the familiar "chiiff chaff chaff" song" but unfortunately couldn't see it. I think this is the latest I've ever heard its song.

    Have a good holiday wherever you are going.



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  • Thank you, Tony, for the kind wishes.

    I believe that he'll/she'll be back, with partner in tow.

    Interesting re your late Chiffchaff song. Times, as the man said, they are a changing (perhaps).

    All the best -
  • Lovely to hear about the Chiffchaff Dave and Tony; whilst on a walk this morning I heard a distinctive sound of "Hoo-eet" a couple of times although I don't know what it was for certain as the sound came somewhere from the middle of half a dozen tall trees ! Perhaps I should have bought a packet of cigarettes (cough, cough, splutter ! ) and sat down a while lol Glad the Chiffchaff flew off ok.


    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • We do get a small(ish) number of Chiffchaffs overwintering down here in the south of England.. Bob Dylan was right although he wasn't singing about climate change.



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  • In reply to HAZY:

    I think it works without the smoking, Hazel...
  • In reply to TeeJay:

    I think we have some stay over here too, Tony (although I'm not entirely sure about that and it would be surprising).

    On Bob Dylan, even Dylan didn't know what he was singing about then, and even if he knew, he'd never admit you were right.
  • How very fortunate that you were in the right place at the right time Dave, even although you were smoking, tsk, tsk!! One lucky Chiffchaff I would say.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Indeed Catlady. For the Chiffchaff, I was in the right place at the right time.

    Just saw him/her/one in the garden.

    Will have to learn the same trick, but without the tobacco...