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How the humble sparrow won my heart

Updated: Apr 25, 2020

Yesterday I discovered that it was World Sparrow Day which sent a flutter of delight through my heart.

I have always loved sparrows which is probably quite surprising given they are not considered to be terribly exciting, especially when compared to the many other beautiful garden birds such as the gardeners friend and everyone’s favourite, the robin or the beautiful blue-tit.

Although I love all birds, yesterday, I started to think about why the humble sparrow gives me particular joy.

When I was young, my parents spent a lot of time in the garden. Even though it was a standard size for NW London, it was home to a cherry and pear tree. My dad also grew cabbages, grapes, runner beans and strawberries alongside roses. As a result, I spent a lot of time there, either with my parents or playing with my sisters.

I have many happy memories of being outside and birds were always there. We received regular visits from black birds, jays, bull finches, blue tits and robins amongst others. However, it was the sparrow that was always found in abundance, flying from tree to tree or congregating in flocks on the ground.

I genuinely think that one of my happiest memories was from one late Saturday afternoon, just before dusk. I must have been 7 or 8 and was outside with my Mum. When she decided to go inside, I remained outside and played a little on my own.

I recall stopping still and looking up at the clear blue sky as I heard a loud chorus of bird song. It was as though it was just me and the birds. I sat on the floor and continued to look up, completely immersed in the sound. Whilst it is difficult to assign a love of something to just one moment, I feel that my love of birdsong was born on that day.

There was another time where I sat still for as long as I could, desperate for a sparrow to come near me in the hope that it would eventually perch on a finger. Alas, this never happened which made me really upset as I kept telling them that I wouldn’t hurt them. Aah, the innocence of a child!

In more recent years, there has been a significant decline in sparrows which I found very notable and depressing given it is a sign of an underlying reason such as a lack of food, lack of habitat, a virus etc. I would say that it there was at least a 10 year gap when I didn’t see any at all. I had put up bird feeders which tended to attract robins, a few blue tits and great tits and wood pigeons who wait around for ‘crumbs’.

Back in 2015, my Mum got cancer and spent a lot longer in hospital than had been anticipated. It was a very stressful time for all of us. I stayed at her house as it was closer to the hospital. One day, I went out into the back garden to get something. Along the back gate were at least 6 sparrows, all lined up. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t seen a sparrow for so long and then all of a sudden, at the most stressful period of my life, they appeared again from nowhere. Since then, the sparrows have continued to grace the garden and my heart.

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