Let Us Prey

Today was a bread making day. I have a boring routine when it’s a bread making day, because it’s really all about leaving the dough to prove for long periods of time. So I work to a reasonably similar timescale each time I do it. The first prove starts at around 11 in the morning, the second prove starts at around 1.30 in the afternoon.

It’s a big chunk of the day, when all is said and done. It’s a lot of waiting around. So if I have semi-official time slots for what is going on when, it allows me the chance to plan things in and amongst – exciting stuff like ironing, changing beds, cleaning bathrooms. Stuff like that.

Not that I’ve done any of that today.

Because my entire second prove window was thrown under the bus by something I saw through the kitchen window.

We have bird feeders hanging up at the bottom of the garden. There are usually birds all over them – starlings, sparrows, tits of various denominations (including, lately, the ridiculously cute long-tailed tits). So it has become a bit of a habit now to have a looksee out of the kitchen window and see what’s occurring. Usually you only need a quick glance to get to grips with what is going on out there, whether the feeders need restocking and things of that nature.

Today, though, I had to get binoculars out.

Basically I spent probably forty minutes or so watching a bird of prey. I’m not sure what it was in all honesty, as it looked like nothing in the bird book that sits on the windowsill but most probably a merlin. Maybe. I don’t know. It simultaneously looked like nothing in the book but also insanely familiar.

I stood and watched it eat something it had caught – another bird, but no idea what type – and it was stupidly fascinating. I mean, everyone’s seen birds of prey eating morsels at bird shows and things like that, but to have one basically ripping the flesh of something not long dead no more than a few metres from your house is absolutely amazing.

Just the act of it plucking the feathers from its prey was mesmerising. It was like someone had had a pillow fight. The air was filled with feathers, but it wasn’t like the plucking was being done at speed or manically. It was just a careful methodical, systematic act. I watched the bird move its feet and rotate the prey to get at parts it hadn’t yet reached. Some might have found it horrible or upsetting to watch.

I thought it was amazing.

I mean, at first I did worry that it was down there eating Trixie. But once I knew it was a bird I was relieved.

I assume now, in hindsight, that it’s not the first time it’s dined down there as I had – a couple of months ago – come across a carpet of feathers at the bottom of the garden with no obvious explanation. Cats, as a rule, don’t pluck the birds clean. They just take them home to their owners more or less intact and expect us to be impressed. But now I’ve seen it in action, it’s clear that what I found was the aftermath of a previous kill.

It’s not really something you expect to see happening in the back garden of a house on a shitty street in Huddersfield. I suppose the woods that are a stone’s throw away have something to do with it, but even then it’s clear that we’ve now created some sort of food chain in the garden that is going to be followed every now and again.

I can’t wait to see what comes above this stage… it’s gonna be huge!