When I was a child, youngish, but not so young that I didn't know what I was doing, little fairy martins used to build their lovely mud bottle nests under the old bridge near my grandmother's home. My cousin Vee and I used to ride our bikes - old bone shakers with no chain guards so you had to wrap your bell-bottoms around your leg and secure them with lacky bands or else risk coming a cropper half way down the great big hill on the way to the bridge when the denim got stuck in the chain - and take pot shots at the nests.
We'd gather stones and then line up several yards away and just let fly. You'd get one point for hitting a bottle; two for putting a hole in it and five for completely dislodging it from the bridge leaving just a muddy ring to show where it had been.
Oh the shame!!!!!
Now I don't remember ever hitting a nest with birds still in it, but I wouldn't put it past us. I can certainly remember the little birds swooping and wheeling in flight above our heads while we were there, so it is quite likely, in fact.
Last week these giddy little birds started building their magnificent bottle nests above the door of the Catholic church across the road. Jemimah and I have been watching their colony grow with great delight. They way these little birds construct their neat homes out of pellets of mud is just marvellous to witness and it pleases me that Jemimah is so protective of the martins and their homes. There is no likelihood of a repeat performance of my wanton vandalism in this generation, at least.
I wish I could show you a photo of the martins themselves, but they are such busy little things that they are impossible to catch on film. I can show you the fairy bottles though.
Aren't they clever?
How could I be so foolish as to damage the likes of these?
What on earth was I thinking of?