x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Teenagers aren't as hard-boiled as they can pretend to be

Teens may pretend to be carelessly hard-boiled, but it¿s impossible not to feel embarrassingly mushy about a pair of cute birds starting a family.

With Easter, we have had our fair share of chocolate eggs. I am no good at deciphering Easter egg hunt clues but I am adept at scarfing down Marks & Spencer honeycomb truffle crunch bunnies.

The Easter egg tradition probably started because spring is when lots of birds lay real eggs; thrillingly, a pair recently laid some in our garden.

I have been in a state of high excitement – teenagers do get themselves worked up about things. For the past week, the birds have been flitting about in the garden with bits of twine. There’s a fish-shaped fountain in the garden, and the nest is safely out of view, inside the fish’s gaping mouth. “They’re building a nest!” I told anyone who’d listen, which wasn’t many. To think I’ll be the first to witness something beautiful and mysterious and heart-rending: the hatching of a clutch of woodpecker chicks.

Actually, I’ve just Googled “woodpeckers” and the garden inhabitants look nothing like woodpeckers. They do look like the search results of “hoopoe”, however, with their splendid tawny crests, needle-like beaks and black-patterned plumage.

I decided, at once, that I would try to make friends with the hoopoes and their babies, leaving out bits of breakfast toast on the grass. The birds flew away immediately, watching with bright, suspicious eyes and swooping down when I retreated. They firmly ignored the bread, so I tried Special K, muesli and Holland & Barrett’s salad sprinkle seeds, which proclaimed to have omega oil that is no doubt good for little hoopoes. These, too, were completely disregarded. I’ve just found out they eat insects and grubs. So much for making friends.

Then again, maybe I could appease them with a little baby shower. A couple of friends from the neighbourhood, Jose and Diana, were to pop over with bird treats. Jose, unfortunately, turned up with his sausage dog, George. It got rather excited about a potential lunch residing in the fish fountain, barking up a storm and scaring the proud parents up a tree.

That was when Diana, who has a soft spot for Jose and perpetual confidence that anyone she likes can’t help having a crush on her, sauntered in. Jose looked at her in alarm and announced it was time to leave. “He always does that,” Diana shook her head thoughtfully. “If I didn’t know he felt shy around me, I would think he was avoiding me.” On the bright side, George was gone, and the hoopoe parents returned, hooting indignantly.

I went out in the garden today to the most wonderful sound: a riot of chirping hoopoe chicks. Mama and Papa hoopoe were taking  turns to poke their beaks to their squabbling progeny and emerging -minus what looked like a round ball of dark mush.

I’ve spent a pleasant half-hour taking photos of teatime chez hoopoes and they look politely puzzled. Teenagers may pretend to be tough and carelessly hard-boiled, but it’s impossible not to feel embarrassingly mushy about a pair of cute birdies starting a family.


The writer is a 17-year-old student in Dubai

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