Country diary: Reaching out to the starlings on the wire

Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire: They are angry and agitated. As they shout this to the world, they bring me out of my four walls

I am stuck in bed. Long-term illness tells you lies. It tells you that because you are not seen, you must mean very little. Preoccupied, morose, it takes a while for me to notice the noise from my open window, but it’s so persistent in the end that my thoughts break like an egg.

Starlings, shouting and shouting. I squint at the gathering shapes over the road. My sight unreliable, I lean to fetch the binoculars that I keep by my bed. I see them then: dozens on the telephone wire, on the roof behind, furious, every dark star of them, more joining to add to the throaty, angry insistence that something is wrong and everyone must know. And then I see a magpie on the ground, pecking and pulling at something broken, small. It has stolen a chick – a late baby from a proud second brood.

A part of me rises and joins them on the wire. My feathers are hurting as I scream too, with them, for them, and then I’m back in my body and my bed, only a spectator again, heart full. What did it feel like when they realised what was happening? Like pressure or fire, red and urgent?

I wonder what it feels like now as the magpie flaps off, their minds holding this new absence between them. Do they think of the magpie as one villain, or does their despair acknowledge a wider chaos that cannot be changed or controlled? More starlings are joining them, even now that it’s all over. I wonder how the news is shared or if it is just felt, somehow, in the bones of every bird on the block.

There are things that should never go unnoticed. I think of the word “keening” and how too much is left to go or be stolen quietly. I am deeply moved, challenged. Obsessing over my own worth and journey, I was offered the chance to be bigger, to join bigger. And does it hurt, this stretching into the world? Yes, maybe, but I learn a new way to be alive.

• Country Diary is on Twitter at @gdncountrydiary


Josie George

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Country diary: Egyptian geese are wild about this pond
Petersfield, Hampshire: These showy African birds were introduced to Britain in the 17th century, but there is now a self-sustaining feral population

Claire Stares

17, Aug, 2018 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: sleepless on a still, shining night
Beauly, Inverness-shire: I stand at the water’s edge and wait for the moon’s brazier glow to take over, as a tawny owl floats effortlessly on to a nearby branch

John Lister-Kaye

30, Jul, 2018 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: a swift blast of beetle mania
Raveningham, Norfolk: Soon my yellow shirt is smothered in tiny black dots, and across the field there must be millions of pollen beetles

Mark Cocker

03, Jul, 2018 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: the loneliest house in Wales?
Cefn Garw, Migneint, Snowdonia: Decades ago old Mr Roberts, who shepherded on horseback, departed his remote tyddyn, leaving the moor to fox, raven, pipit-hunting merlin

Jim Perrin

09, Jun, 2018 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: Swimming with the starlings
Hayling Island, Hampshire: Their communal bath is such a frenzy of activity that it feels as though I’m watching them on fast forward

Claire Stares

22, Nov, 2022 @5:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: savouring the swish of waves and skylarks' song
Bude, North Cornwall: Whatever your direction of travel here, the path will be rich in nature and history

Virginia Spiers

18, Jul, 2019 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: Pity the urban birder in late summer
West Norwood, London: In between the swifts leaving and the redwings arriving are the doldrums, when a single coal tit can save the day

Lev Parikian

08, Sep, 2022 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: on the site of a drowned town
Dunwich, Suffolk: We’re buffeted past anglers huddled in tents, backed to the wind

Amy-Jane Beer

22, Jun, 2019 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: An early morning commune with the corn buntings
South Downs, East Sussex: My dog and I seem to have the world to ourselves, alongside the lone song thrush and the box-fresh burnets

Kate Bradbury

25, Jul, 2022 @4:30 AM

Article image
Country diary: this sedge warbler has never suffered from stage fright
Sandy, Bedfordshire: The ceaseless singer is all look-at-me poses and a jazz hands splay of fixed wings

Derek Niemann

24, Jul, 2019 @4:30 AM