Dear Mr. and Mrs. Spotted Flycatcher,
Do you not realise that I have things to do? Very important things, no less, although I cannot tell you exactly what they are. Still, I know that they are very important. I feel them whirring through my head and calling for my attention. I must get something done, move forward, progress.
It has something to do with money and paying the bills. And so don’t you see, Mr. and Mrs. Spotted Flycatcher, that it is most inconvenient the way you have built such a perfect little nest right outside my front door, perched on top of the outdoor light, just inside the wooden soffit?
How am I to get on with my most important business, even though I still can’t quite tell you what that is, whilst you are coming and going all day long, feeding a nest full of three (or is it four?) chicks who I can’t help but notice are growing faster than my fingernails?
Can you imagine how difficult it is to concentrate when you arrive with a whole butterfly dangling from your beak and then whizz up into the nest to offer it to your little ones who are waiting with such eagerness? Of course I have no choice but to stop what I am doing, my most important work, and look up out of the window to see those little beaks reaching up at you for food.
Nor can I then help but notice this strange and curious thing of you reaching into the nest and taking away a little ball of something white. What is that? Of course I can’t go on with my work without knowing what miraculous thing you are up to now so I have to search the internet, only to discover that you are removing fecal sacs from your chicklets’ butts! My goodness, how on earth am I to work when you are going about such extraordinary things?
You pretend to be plain and dull and boring with those grey-brown feathers of yours but you know you are anything but! Why must there be such a kindness to your lovely face and an enchanting slenderness to your body that I have not seen in any other bird? And why must you dart and swoop and whizz here and there catching flies and butterflies? You are such a show off and I swear you are doing it just to frustrate me. To keep me from my very important tasks.
Oh, dear me. I should be working! I should be earning! I should be doing something useful! I’m wasting so much time!
But wait! I feel something shifting. A softening around my heart. A relaxation. Oh that’s right, now I remember. I remember that you are my work. Watching you. Loving you. Telling of you through these words. These things are my work. My very important tasks. This is how I am able to give a tiny smidgen of this love I feel back to the web of life.
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Spotted Flycatcher, for making your miraculous nest right outside my window. Your chicks have flown now and I rarely see you. Soon you will make the journey all the way to Africa. Holy hell. Please survive. Please come back next year.
P.S. I had never seen these birds until I moved to this house. According to what I read on the Woodland Trust website, numbers of Spotted Flycatchers declined by 89% between 1967 and 2012. They are another bird on the conservation red list. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had such a front row seat for a few short weeks this summer.