Update from my front garden: it was indeed a family of blackbirds that was responsible for the nocturnal singing. Sadly, the truth revealed itself in the cruellest way possible: a dead chick on our doorstep.

This is the reality of urban living. The life-affirming melodies of birds are obliterated by the sound (noise?) of vehicles. This creates a divorce between the natural world and our metropolitan lifestyle. Still, London might count itself as a very lucky city when it comes to greenery and wildlife. Take a couple of Sundays ago. I was cycling west-to-east on the CS3 (cycle superhighway). Along the Thames I went with dozens of fellow cyclist on a segregated cycle lane. Around us the din of cars, lorries and buses was the only soundtrack that accompanied us. Yet, straight after the Tower of London I turned left and headed for Mile End Park. Immediately I was surrounded by scenery that would not have been out of place in a quaint, typical English village. All that was missing was the scones and tea. Ironically, no more than a few hundred yards away gas-guzzling cars were speeding up Burdett Road, whilst down here people were picnicking on the lush and verdant grass.

This disconnection between our natural world and our suburban experience is the main reason why it still shocks to see a magpie attacking a nest of robins or blackbirds. After some of you mentioned the type of bird that might have been the cause for the midnight-serenading, I also noticed that we have had an increase of magpies lately. I usually see one or two around but now, both at home and at work, we seem to have half a dozen “residents”. Please, don’t ask me how I know this. After all, all magpies look the same to me, but I just sense there is a gang going for our local birds.

And why shouldn’t they? Should the magpie not feed its young, too? It is called animal food chain for a reason and we city-dwellers had better get used to it. Even if it means one less singer in the blackbirds’ combo.

Note: I still cannot understand the local cats’ behaviour, though. I mentioned that they daren’t go up the tree where the blackbird’s nest is. Yet, there they are, in my back garden, stalking the birds that come to eat the seeds we put out for them. During the winter season it was fun to see one or two of these felines jumping into our back garden keeping ever so quiet, waiting for all the various birds (and we did have a variety) to alight on the seed feeders. But never, never, did I see the cats catch one.

London-based, Cuban writer. Author of “Cuban, Immigrant, and Londoner”, to be published by Austin Macauley. Has written for The Guardian and Prospect.

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