Cockatrice

30 Jan

One evening last week, when the mist was drifting around in a state of indecision about whether to stay or go, I  took a walk through the old grove, where the lane forms a tunnel of arching branches. Out of the corner of my eye, living shadows were flitting between the trees, but whenever I looked directly at them, they were gone. They were almost silent, making  little flurries at the edge of my hearing. I crept into the undergrowth to investigate.

Small black forms, the size of my booted feet, were darting across the leaf litter from thicket to thicket. Dusk was drawing in and it was dark under the trees, so it was some minutes before I realised that I was looking at blackbirds carrying out their end-of-day back-and-forthing before settling onto their roosts for the night. Why do they do that, I wonder?

A flash of colour drew me towards the far edge of the grove. I would be  easy pickings for a will o’ the wisp, I am sure. Bending under some low-hanging branches, I came face to face with this chap, who eyed me balefully through the gloom.

Immobile, we held each other’s gaze, and I was reminded of the story of the Cockatrice, half cockerel and half serpent, who can turn people to stone with a stare. Then suddenly, he broke the trance, releasing a full-blooded cock-a-doodle-do into the air. It was answered by three other cockerels, who shared his enclosure. That’s a lot of cockerels for one small flock of hens.

I retraced my steps toward our cottage, and the mist made up its mind to stay.

3 Responses to “Cockatrice”

  1. SEF January 30, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Some of the food the blackbirds want is more available in the dark – eg worms. Hence, overall, it pays them to get an early start and have a late end to their day.

    My blackbirds are raisin fiends but the starlings, pigeons and doves like those too and the starlings are more agile and numerous. So, to preferentially feed the blackbirds, I try to target the dawn and dusk hours.

    • Snailquake January 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

      Thanks for that explanation! It makes a lot of sense. They did seem to be paying a lot of attention to the ground.

      Raisins, eh? I’ll tell Bunty. He loves feeding the birds.

      • SEF January 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

        Raisins … sultanas … currants … I don’t think they’re very fussy over the precise species.

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