I can’t help paying attention to superstitions about birds. I’ve always heard that a bird flying into the house is an omen of death and there are particular birds – particularly crows and magpies – that make me feel uneasy. I’ve also always thought that a bird landing on the window sill was another harbinger of death. So, the fact that my neighbour has installed a bird table and is attracting birds of many species into the garden is a somewhat mixed blessing. I like to see the robins and tits but I’m not a fan of their bigger feathered companions.
This week has been one of mixed omens. Apart from the mixed flock in the back garden, I’ve been encountering birds while out and about. Twice, low-flying pheasants have crossed my path showing off their magnificent feathers. Although pheasant are common in these parts you usually need to be out in the countryside to see them. I was startled to come across them at such close quarters. Thankfully, they don’t appear to have any inauspicious associations – well, except that they can be interpreted as a harbinger of imminent rain. But that’s okay. Rain is common enough around here and I don’t think the other world would be sending me personalised warnings.
More disturbing than the pheasant was a swallow I encountered yesterday. We were out in the countryside visiting an old hunting lodge that I thought had a really creepy feeling about it. The rooms were small and many of the windows were obscured either by blinds or by plants that gave the place a claustrophobic air. When we walked into the drawing room, a swallow was flying in circles close to the ceiling. I was horrified – filled with a truly primal sense of dread. My companion tried to open a window but it was locked. We subsequently learned that a former owner had been so suspicious of his wife that he had kept her locked up for many years. I don’t know if the trapped swallow had any connection with the afterlife or the ghost of the trapped wife, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. I couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.
I’m also a bit bothered about a magpie that has taken to resting on my window sill this week. I have always interpreted crows on the window sill as harbingers of death. I’m hoping that magpies don’t have that ominous association. Thankfully, he’s not pecking on the window itself. If that happens, I think I’m truly doomed.
Perhaps it’s time I got another cat.