Jez's Blog

The Strange Story of How I Found a New Band

A Salute to My Influences

Celebrating Our Differences

Daring to Use the Four-Letter Word

What Is The Real Olympian Spirit?

Watching The Olympics Opening Ceremony

How Good Service Turned into a Speed Trip

Blurring the Line Between Fact and Fiction

How Creativity Keeps Moving On

How an Artist in the Kitchen Revealed my Inner 'Foody'

Synchronicity - an Everyday Sort of Magic

Does This Make You Laugh?

The Magic of Storytelling

How Good Design Serves the User

Learning to Love Creative Blocks

Creating The CLUB

How a Kiss Missed Its Target at a Posh Do

How Bob Dylan refused the Box labelled ‘Protest Singer’

The ‘Get Back in Your Box’ Syndrome

What’s all the fuss about?

Reflections on Learning and Teaching

The Third in my Triptych of Entries about Thought

Happily disconnected in Cornwall

The Best Way to Sell is to Do Something Well

Life is Good

Zen & the Art of Birdwatching

Ode to Bobby
Zen & the Art of Birdwatching



Two years ago a black bird took up residence in our garden. From March until June he sang his beautiful song for us - from our crab apple tree, from the top of our house, and from the paving slabs where he pecked up the seeds which the blue tits dropped from the feeder. Every time we left our house we were greeted with his ecstatic, joyous chorus and he became such a character in our lives that we gave him a name: Bobby. We knew Bobby was a ‘he’ because our interest in him prompted us to buy a book which told us that the black blackbirds are male and brown ones are female. We also learnt how they feed from the ground and like worms, insects and, oddly, raisins. We wanted to give something back to Bobby so every now and then we would scatter some raisins on the paving stones as a treat, as well as making sure the bird bath was re-filled every day for his washing routine.


         Green woodpecker                    Lesser spotted woodpecker
Green & Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers


Birdwatching has a rather naff connotation in some quarters and, after watching a TV programme about it last year, I came to realise how it had earned this reputation. I was expecting the programme to be all about the birds but instead the camera was directed at the bird watchers themselves - a far less pretty sight but it turned out to be an interesting study in human behaviour. Here were men whose lives were consumed by an obsession to chase all over the country in order to catch a fleeting glimpse of some rare species which had so far eluded their ‘tick list’. You see, in the birdwatching community that the programme showed, you were only as important as the number of ticks on your list. No one seemed to be interested in the wonder of the birds themselves, only in the kudos which spotting them could bring.


        Green finch                   Goldfinch
Greenfinch & Goldfinch


If they had really stopped and ‘seen’ the birds rather than just chased them, they might have learnt something from their dignity and awareness. What these ‘birders’ are doing seems to me the very opposite of what it’s all about - they have become ‘bird chasers’ rather than ‘birdwatchers’, forever chasing after some future goal. To chase something asks a lot less of you than to really stop and ‘see’ something, because to ‘see’ requires you to put your self aside and be open to what you see.


Blue tit                    Song thrush
Blue Tit & Song Thrush


Since I got into watching birds in the garden, I’ve naturally started looking for birds when out walking in the countryside and I soon realised there is a whole world going on out there which I had hardly noticed before. But birds in the country are not used to human beings and so their presence is much more ephemeral. To become aware of these wild birds means you have to first of all become quiet and then tune your senses into their world. Then, if you want to get close enough to observe the birds (without resorting to the powerful telescopes of the bird watchers) you have to respect that you are entering their territory and in some ways you need to become like them in as much as you must be able to be still and alert. This means leaving behind all silly human foibles – like pride (who’s got the most ticks) and the pull into the future goal (I will be happy when I get the next tick on the list) in order to enter into the beauty of nature in the present. In effect – to be able to see the birds, ‘you’ have to disappear.




Bobby came and sang for us for two years running; we miss him now that he doesn’t return but console ourselves with the thought that he found a mate and so no longer needed to sing his heart out to attract one around our house. Along with the gift of his sublime song (every note of which seemed to proclaim: ‘Life is good’!) Bobby gave me a new found love of birds. Because of him I see so much more beauty out there in nature that before I would just have missed.


Nut hatch          Jay          Robin
Nut Hatch, Jay & Robin


Even in our small eighty-foot garden the variety of birds which I’ve spotted is staggering (including all of those pictured in this article and more). I hope this article has inspired you to see birds in you garden which you may have overlooked before; if so, it is all thanks to one little blackbird who shared with us his beautiful song. In return, this is my little song of thanks to Bobby.



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