About half a year ago I moved to a new studio. Brighter and more spacious than my last one, it’s quite a good place to sit out the pandemic. It’s on the third floor, one up from where I used to be. It’s surrounded on all sides by the budding crowns of linden trees. There is a balcony from where I can look at the Utrecht skyline and listen to the silence at night.
One thing I’ve noticed since living this high up and with such a broad view of the sky, is the regularity with which you can see certain species of bird flying to and fro. Every morning, at sunrise, there are all kinds of gulls and corvids flapping to their destinations. Blackbirds marble their clear notes in the trees, and in the distance I can hear the wooden roffling of a great spotted woodpecker. I know there’s a group of jackdaws that have a roost near the Sint Augustineskerk. In my mind’s eye I can just see them crowding the early morning sky, grey, black and curious, as they fly over Utrecht.
I’ve had a pair of binoculars sitting next to me on my desk and it’s been quite addictive watching all those distant specks turn into distinctive birds. As a present for Sinterklaas my dad made me a simple bird feeder. Ever since putting it up several jackdaws and some blue tits have been venturing further and further onto my balcony. They make for surprisingly funny companions. The bluetits with their quick, flitting movements, dashing from tree to feeder and back. The approach of the jackdaws is more brash. Asserting themselves on my balcony as if they’ve always been there. Which might actually be true, I’ve only lived here for several months. They pick with a vigour at the suet cake that the smaller blue tits just can’t match.
Another avian inhabitant that I’ve grown fond of is the woodpigeon. I never used to pay much attention to them, with their ungainly flight, awkward way of landing and dumbfounded look. The only times I did see them it was with a small smirk on my face. Another failed landing or missed branch. My attitude has changed however, since one started sleeping in the tree next to where my bed is. Every evening the bird settles in, ruffling its feathers, eyes slowly drooping, seemingly becoming one with the grey tree. It feels strangely comforting to know that there’s a bird slowly falling asleep as I’m finishing my day. A weird similarity based solely on the need for sleep. All of this, just to say that, even though we might lack some sense of human companionship, there’s always other ways of feeling connected. I have, for instance, not even started on the amount of bugs, flies and mosquitos that have been invading my studio.