Living in a very urban area on the edge of a very large city, a girl doesn't expect much in the way of wildlife on a daily basis. Mice, rats, the occasional hedgehog, and of course the place is crawling with bloody foxes, (but people get to twitchy when I suggest establishing the Tooting Hunt. I assume they're anxious about where we'd kennel the hounds ...)
But I've taken some joy this summer in a wee spot of birdwatching. You see, for all our limited supply of wildlife, we can offer a rather quirky line in twitching. We have a local flock of parakeets. Not what you'd expect from a not-very-tropical corner of town, is it?
They sound like those toys that dogs chew, so you can hear the tell-tale squeek squeek squeek a little in advance, then they'll come over in sixes and sevens, usually with one poor sucker a second or two behind, squeeking a little, "wait for meeeeee!" at his friends. Always the same time of day - that bit of the evening after the sun goes over and before dusk, and always heading in the same direction. They must be commuting, I assume.
Where did they come from?! Well I have two theories ...
Theory 1 - Parakeet Amore
Percy and Prunella Parakeet lived in a cage in the lounge of a Grumpy Lady. She gave them a mirror to look in, and a string of seed to nibble at, and they had three perches to hop between. In the evening the Grumpy Lady would cover them over with a tea towel and it made them sad so that they'd no longer squeak squeak squeak to one another.
By day though, they could peep between the bars of their cage and out the window and see other, less attractive birds flying freely around, splashing in puddles and eating juicy worms. They would squeak to one another about how they dreamed that one day they could join the ugly brown birds and spread their lovely green wings.
The Grumpy Lady came every day to change their water, and when she put her big fat arm through the door of the cage, Percy and Prunella would cower in the far corner of their cage, and snuggle together. One very sunny day, when the Grumpy Lady had the windows in her house open, and Percy and Prunella could hear the other birds chirruping merrily to themselves, Percy came up with a plan.
He squeaked his idea to Prunella and she agreed that they should give it a go. So that day, when the Grumpy Lady came to change the water, they took their usual positions at the back of the cage, took a deep breath, then flew at the Grumpy Lady's big fat arm, pecking her fat fingers and making her jump backwards. In her shock, she was slow to close the door of the cage, and quick as a flash, Percy and Prunella darted out the door, across the room, and out the open window.
Up, up, up! they flew, feeling the wind under their green wings and they squeak, squeak, squeaked their way up to the top of the tallest trees! Percy and Prunella had lots of little baby parakeets, who in turn had babies of their own, and so their little family of free parakeets grew in their tropical Tooting home. And they all lived happily ever after.
Theory 2 - The Lone Parakeet
Paul the parakeet lived in a house with an old man. The old man liked having Paul around for company, and talked to him all the time. Paul had a cage to call home, but the door was always open for him to come and go as he pleased, so he spent a lot of time sitting on curtain rails and lampshades, squeaking and chattering to the old man. They were very happy together.
But the man was very old and was poorly and one day his daughter came to help him pack up some things and move into a home where people would look after him. In all the fuss though, everyone forgot about Paul, and he sat watching from the top of the curtain rail whilst they all left.
When everyone had gone, and Paul had realised that they weren't coming back for him, he had a good flap around the house to look for a way out, and he found a tiny broken pane of glass and squeezed out and flew over to a nearby tree where he hid himself in amongst the leaves so he could think.
Days went by and Paul missed having someone to talk to. He flew around from time to time to look for something to eat, but he was a bit scared of the other birds. The sparrow and starlings flew around in big groups, and the pigeons were all much bigger than him, and they all stared at his bright green feathers and made him feel bad. He was so different to everyone else that he felt lonely even when he was surrounded by other birds.
Then, one day, he was there, perched on his branch, when he saw a flash of green past his tree. "WOWEE," thought Paul. "Who was she?! She's GORGEOUS!" and he flap, flap, flapped off his branch after her as quick as his wings would take him.
Finally he caught her up and caught her eye. "Hello," she said. "I'm Petra. I escaped from my old owner's house weeks ago and I've never seen another greeny like us since then. It's lovely to meet you." Paul was smitten. They went for a good fly around the neighbourhood and found seeds on birdfeeders to eat, and Paul was no longer scared of the other birds because now he didn't feel lonely. Paul couldn't believe his luck!
Before long, they were beak-fencing (the saucy devils) and that night they snuggled next to one another on the same branch. Paul and Petra were inseparable after that, and over time they met other escaped parakeets who came to live in the tree with them, and start a little green colony. And that tree was in Tooting. And they all lived happily ever after.
Either way, there's loads of them now. And they look so free, whizzing around the south-west London sky. I only hope they like eating worms ...
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