Over the weekend, I was distractedly brushing my teeth in the bathroom, both windows open to get rid of post-shower steam, when I saw an enormous bird land on the grass verge of the footpath, behind our house. I couldn’t quite see what it was: although pushing both of those window frames as far as they will go has the effect of pulling the outside inside – which is why I do it so often – the scene immediately beyond our garden fence is still somewhat obscured by the leafless but still flowering cherry tree.
The bits of it I could see as it bowled along were speckled beiges and browns; my first thought was that it might be a female pheasant blown somehow off course from the woods outside town. It was only when it came to a gap in the tree branches that I suddenly realized: it was a woodpecker, the first I’ve ever seen in the wild. It turned its head away from me suddenly, and its bright red hood flashed back as if to compensate.
I must have made some sort of noise of astonishment, as K. joined me from next door. We both stood there, in the darkened hide of the room, watching this creature surely too big to fly, as it suddenly made a single muscular, javelin hurl of itself onto the steep eaves of a roof on the other side of the footpath. It pottered there for a good few minutes, bold as brass; every minute or so it would hop another two or three slates higher up, looking around in a vaguely threatening manner; until it reached the apex of the roof, thought for a while, ruffled itself, then bolted.
As all this was going on, the birdsong was noticeably quiet: only an occasional chub-chub revealed the presence of clearly panicked local blackbirds. Also, at one point the local Kitler padded across our fence and onto the shed roof; utterly ignorant of the glorious sight pretty much exactly behind its hunter’s stereoscopic head, and in the absence of the far more territorial Psycho Cat, Kitler decided to take up the mantle of stalking the chickens next door.