Bird skirmishing


robin tweets his warning cry

fiery fierce

from his honeysuckle bush

none shall enter

this private tangle


egrets in the meadow

pause in their insect search

then resume unconcerned

the bullets

were for someone else


crows mob the buzzard

black voices hoarse with hatred

but when the red kites arrive

slow in tight formation

no one moves



Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

39 thoughts on “Bird skirmishing”

      1. Never complain about seeing the birds! I live on a suburban housing estate. Haven’t seen a sparrow in months. Such a sad, empty place without their boisterous banter.

      2. The sparrow population in Europe has plummetted, even though they were supposed to have adapted so well to suburban living. Cats are partly responsible, also fewer people feeding them, no nest sites, cretins who remove nests because they’re untidy…

      3. So sad, isn’t it. I live in the East Midlands but have just come back from seven weeks in New Zealand. Our ancestors introduced house sparrows there to remind them of home(!), and they’re thriving. We told several New Zealanders that if they ever get sick of their sparrows we’ll have them back in the UK. Also the introduced skylarks, yellowhammers, goldfinches etc etc.

      4. I thought you must live in the Antipodes. Something about your name maybe 🙂 I was brought up in a semi-rural part of Yorkshire in the 60s and 70s and didn’t see the wealth of birdlife I see here now. Pesticides did for the birds then industrial scale farming, vast sterile fields. They don’t massacre everything that moves in UK like they do here, but where there is still small scale agriculture, the wildlife has more of a chance. Sparrows though I only see in town. Never out where we live.

      5. Ah yes, my moniker! The story of my transformation into the Platypus Man is told here:
        And you’re based in France? (I just googled you!) I’d assumed from your style you were based in rural UK … that’s a compliment incidentally! I’ve only just found you on WordPress, via Ms Liz, and am enjoying finding stuff you’ve written in my inbox every morning. Looking forward to reading some more.

      6. I’ve just been over to read about you and signed up for the next adventure (loved that gannet!).
        I hooked up with a francophile at university and he dragged me over here as soon as Margaret Thatcher declined to offer me a job teaching infants in London. We’ve been here ever since so I’m more than just based here, I am here.
        When you’ve been brought up in the very refined atmosphere of an Irish community in the West Riding you tend to keep accents and strange turns of phrase, especially if you only ever speak English to your partner and that’s larded with franglais by now anyway. My English hasn’t evolved since the 1980s and the voices on the BBC radio in the main make my flesh creep. Where did English go?

      7. Welcome to my humble blog, thank you for signing up! Interesting what you say about your English not evolving … preserved in aspic, I guess you’d say. Based on what I’ve read of your stuff so far, it works for me!

      8. Thank you! I find it’s a handicap when it comes to writing contemporary stuff. I’m more likely to know the incoherent ungrammatical jargon French kids throw at one another than I am with what even well-spoken English people come out with these days.

      9. On the other hand, many of the things you write about – the beauty and behaviour of birds, for example – are timeless, so a ‘classical’ style works just as well as a more contemporary idiom. Listening to the language evolve reminds me that it is a living thing, and can never be contained. The rule is that there are no rules – or very few anyway – and in that respect language reflects modern society. Attitudes and behaviours today are generally more relaxed / fluid than when we were young, so it’s no surprise to see that change reflected in the way we speak as well as, say, attitudes to sexuality. Of course the biggest driver is the globalisation of ‘American English’ on the coat-tails of Hollywood, Netflix … and even, dare I say it, WordPress! Although like you I’m a child of traditional English language teaching (I know when to use an apostrophe!) I try not to let it worry me. I borrow from modern forms when it suits me – my own blogging style is conversational, chatty, informal – but revert to the dear old Queen’s English on other occasions. I guess (nasty Americanism, there!) our guiding principle should be to be true to ourselves, without getting too exercised by what the rest of the English speaking world is up to. Change happens. Forgive me for rambling on and clogging up your blog with my personal pontifications, but it’s kinda (yuk!) interesting, isn’t it? 🙂 (nasty modern emoji, never needed them when I was a lad!) Best wishes from Monsieur le Platypus.

      10. You’re right, of course. A language that doesn’t evolve is a dead language. That English idioms have changed is what I’d expect, it’s the sound that I find so jarring, the upspeaking, the lack of regional differentions, the awful Americanisms that replace perfectly good English expressions. One of my pet hates is ‘guys’ particularly when it’s applied to a group of women. As if the only way for women to be ‘modern’ is to be classified as honorary men.
        We listen to a lot of Radio 4 at the moment to get some kind of news. French national radio has been on strike for three weeks now, we don’t have a TV and refuse to listen to the French commercial stations. The accents are just weird. We take bets on where the newsreader/journalist/politician hoves from because you’d never know from the way they speak. Could be Baltimore, Bombay, Birkenhead, Mars…
        You’re not clogging up my blog at all. I call it an interesting conversation, a pleasant change from having to put people straight when they try to convert me, show me the error of my ways and tell me that Jesus loves me. That is a wearisome waste of time for all concerned.

      11. My pet hate is “awesome.” Some (young) people seem to regard everything as awesome. For example, in NZ (yes, it’s spread down there too) we went into a little restaurant and asked for a table for two. The girl (late teens / early 20s?) at the desk beamed at us and said “awesome.” Is it really “awesome” that two hungry people ask for a table in a restaurant? I don’t think so.

        Incidentally I totally agree with your comment about the god-squadders. They’re welcome to their views, of course, but I do wish they’d keep them to themselves.

      12. Awesome is what my second daughter would describe as an ‘iconic’ word. Thankfully I have never had anyone use it in my physical presence otherwise they’d get the nearest heavy object on the top of the head. Yup, it is a truly awful word, used in completely the wrong contexts by people who have no idea what the word ‘awe’ means.
        God-people as you say are entitled to their own points of view. So are serial killers, psychopaths, and solar panel salespeople. However, I would never go to a god-fearing blog and leave comments intended to show them the error of their ways. I would pass on the other side of the street. It irritates me that they feel entitled to welly in with their proselytising as if someone who doesn’t ‘believe’ is ‘wrong’ ‘ignorant’ an airhead and they are just the people to fill it with something useful. Arrogance.

      13. Is there a French equivalent of awesome, I wonder, or is this a peculiarly anglophone affliction?

        Totally share your assessment of god-squadder arrogance. Thankfully it’s been several years since the last pair of Jehova’s Witnesses – replete with shiny briefcases and earnest expressions – rang the doorbell and then tried to convert me on my own doorstep. The nerve of those people!

        Incidentally, my wife’s pet hate is misuse of the word “unique”, as in “your blogging style is very unique, Mr Platypus.” I can feel her tense up every time we hear something like this on radio or television, and we hear it a lot. It’s most definitely a word more often used incorrectly than properly.

      14. ‘Literally’. As in Pogba literally blew X away with that strike.”
        I also dislike the use of decimated to mean completely wiped out.
        We have even had Jehovah’s out here. I know you don’t know what ‘out here’ looks like but you go out of town (9000 souls, completely dead place) take the road that goes past the silos, turn into an unnamed land, carry on for about 3 kilometres until you’re out into open countryside and our house is on an unmade track off to the right, low in the valley, looks like a barn about to fall down. Why? What do they get out of it? Apart from insults, doors slammed in their faces and threats to set the dog on them.
        French is a much more tightly controlled language than English. You have to get it right. Misspell a word or miss off an e in an agreement and you get bawled out on social media. But it also has an awful lot of homonyms so people tend not to fall about laughing at words that sound like something completely different. Like a local painter and decorator whose van has his name plastered over it J-P DEMEURE a demeuré is what we used to unkindly call a spas. Nobody else even notices the similarity. An expression I like which isn’t used that much by the under fifties is ‘Oh, la vache!’ meaning bloody hell fire. A more modern variant is ‘Oh, punaise!’ A punaise is a generic name for any bug with a spikey thing, like a bed bug or a rose chafer beetle. Can mean a drawing pin too…

      15. Ah, the infinite joy of language, the limitless opportunities for truth and beauty, dreams and deceits, bad jokes and tall tales. I suppose that’s what I like about the process of writing: the possibilities are endless and one day – maybe – I will put together a sequence of words that is more than the sum of its parts. But don’t hold your breath!

        Regarding your Jehova’s Witness anecdote, a small part of me admires their determination in tracking you down to your isolated rural retreat. But what a pity that all their energy can’t be channelled into something useful, into doing good rather than doing God!

      16. Yes, you’d think so wouldn’t you. But that’s logic. They don’t do logic, just fantasy. In any case, going ‘good’ would mean helping people out of their natural state, and God helps those who help themselves etc etc. Pass the port.

      1. I know. I’m guilty of sending off msgs that are outrageously incoherent only to have to send corrections as I did here. I’m tempted to disable autocorrect but afraid of the consequence of that too! 😊

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