After lockdown began last year a friend invited me to join the Self-Isolating Bird Club [started by Chris Packham during the first lockdown]. I started posting some pictures of birds on my hand and was explaining to the other members how I’d made friends with a pigeon called Sid on my Big Issue pitch. Then there was some sort of glitch and I was locked out of the club for a few days. When I came back everyone was really concerned for me and I had over 1,000 messages. That really had an impact on me. I was so moved, I had tears in my eyes reading some of the comments.
Over the year I’ve just been chatting to people in the club and putting posts up. People were noticing animals in their gardens more in lockdown and some of the birds were starving so I ended up doing some fundraisers on there to get seeds. I raised over £500 and I put out more than two metric tons of seed over the year. I’ve learned that the birds do recognise me. Yes, it’s cupboard love but the trust they give me is real. If they’ve got that trust, they can come up to me and I’m more likely to be able to give them welfare.
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There’s a lot of kindness in the bird club. It was a theme throughout that first lockdown but people were so kind with their donations to my fundraiser. I made it a form of citizen journalism because I wanted them to see where their money was going. Then other people saw me doing it and the staff in the pound shop told me that taxi drivers are now coming in to buy bags of seed. People just seem really grateful because some of them haven’t been out for months on end. They’d probably like to be out there themselves feeding the ducks, so I’m trying to be their eyes if you like.
It all began with Sid. My life had been deteriorating and I found myself on a Big Issue pitch. It was quite a stark reality to begin with. Then I met this pigeon who would come right up to my hand and eat peanuts. It brought me a bit of joy, and made my situation less stark.
I’ve had robins coming to my hand… squirrels, ducks, a family of Canada geese
I’d look forward to going to my pitch because I might see my pigeon. Others joined in and I started to get a few favourites. Then I kind of adopted a swan family with eight cygnets. It was love at first sight I suppose and after a couple of days the mother would swim across the river with all eight cygnets in a line when she saw me. The cygnets squeaking away was the soundtrack to my summer.