The benefits of ‘curtain twitching’

We all have days when everything feels like just a little bit too much: like myriad tasks are mounting up uncontrollably while motivation [and self-worth] are cascading downwards. Slumps and spells of low creativity as we bemoan mounting pressures but do little to combat them due to persistent, nagging and quite frankly, irritating, doubts. Yes, it has been one of those weeks – fine and dandy at work, and in public, but strangely deflated at home.

For some obscure reason, I have found myself demoralised of late. I wouldn’t go as far as to say “down” but definitely lacking the energy and incentive to do the things I usually love: writing, blogging, even birding. All of which has culminated in prolonged spells of sitting and staring vacantly at my laptop screen. Hoping for the miraculous resurgence of inspiration yet getting nowhere fast, until this morning that is, with a prolonged bout of ‘curtain twitching’.

I had chalked my recent slump up to a lack of time in nature, something I suspect many of us need to function properly as human beings. Perhaps I was correct; although gazing outwards from the window, I quickly came to realise I had been ignorant, and that one need not be galavanting in the countryside to enjoy, and seek motivation from the natural world.

For those unaware, my bedroom window looks out directly on to a busy street – the only perk being the bird feeders tactfully positioned outside in our minuscule yard. These attract a good range of species given our position in central Newcastle: house sparrows (over 70 at times), goldfinches, starlings, woodpigeons, doves, dunnocks and the occasional tit and Robin. All of which I fear I have overlooked in my current self-reflective grump.

Today, the feeders thronged with sparrows – around forty of them – jostling for position and making an ungodly mess, all to a persistent soundtrack of high-pitched chirrups. The testosterone-fueled jostling of the male birds, clad in their dark masks of alternating hues – a sign of dominance, I was once told – bemusing, and the boldness of the entire folk in the face of passing dog-walkers and cyclists, outstanding.


Above the sparrows, a pair of visiting Goldfinches raided the Nyger; appearing almost snobbish as they watched the scrum beneath. On the ground, a plump Woodpigeon waddled through the mass of small, brown birds, dispersing them in its wake as it mopped up fallen fragments of sunflower and wheat. From the pot which holds our now decrepit Cotoneaster, a Dunnock tentatively emerged, far too polite to engage in the frenzy and content to pick off stray morsels from the peripheries.

I confess that it took me a while to realise I was feeling better; mood building as I observed the fray until begrudgingly, I returned to my screen. Now, three hours later, I have obliterated my ‘to do’ list: answering emails, writing a reference, drafting a post for a notable NGO, proofreading a magazine and quickly producing a few snippets of overdue copy. Hell, now I even find myself writing this post – the first piece of genuine writing I have submitted to this blog in weeks.

It really is remarkable what a brief spell in nature can do for you. I should take five, sit back and watch more often – even when commitments render me unable to travel further afield.



  1. Ashley says:

    James, an excellent post!
    This morning whilst doing my bit of “curtain twitching” I couldn’t face clearing up the mess that the starlings were making around and under the one bird feeder that we have in our tiny back garden. I hope our bird-feeding isn’t the cause of the starling’s aggression to each other or the reason for their bullying of the house sparrows who were reduced to looking on from the sidelines!
    It was certainly very cold outside today so the best thing to do was to put on “the big coat” and head off to the Apple Fayre in a nearby village. Brilliant it was, and we returned home with some new apple varieties (to us) to bake in a pie along with a couple of bottles of local craft cider!
    Now to clean up that mess!

  2. Ashley says:

    PS: congratulations re. the BSBI “pubs” committee!

  3. David says:

    When I visit my parents in Essex I spend a lot of time curtain twitching. The highlight is the Goldfinch mob. The rest of the visitors are as per your list with the odd Chaffinch thrown in. Nice post, James!

    1. James Common says:

      Thank you, David! Do love the Goldfinches… 😊

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