The mid-winter of a good breeding year may find up to 20 million wrens in these islands, some six million of them in Ireland. Drawing: Michael Viney

On my first Christmas in Ireland, in 1961, I lived in a chilly holiday cottage in Tully, on Connemara’s Renvyle Peninsula. Across the road, the villag(...)

White blackbird. Illustration: Michael Viney

There are one or two causes for it, but the late-summer disappearance of our garden birds dismayed me more than usual. Apples on topmost branches wer(...)

Cuckoo at other bird’s nest: Most cuckoos of both sexes resemble some sort of hawk. Illustration: Michael Viney

Early to my desk, I found the hillside seriously somnolent: the ewes still pillowed, their lambs close and dozing. The ocean gleamed with zig-zags of (...)

Robin in the polytunnel. Illustration: Michael Viney

For several months, my unfailing companion during visits to the polytunnel has been a robin – always the same one, I think, hopping in at my heels as (...)

Goldfinches at feeder. Illustration: Michael Viney

The peanuts for our bird feeders, bought at the Westport co-op, came from Argentina in a 50kg sack that took both of us to haul from the car boot into(...)

Cheating heart: cuckoos lay eggs in other birds’ nests. Illustration: Michael Viney

The insistent, ultimately irritating cu-coo-cu of the collared dove, returning to nest in a mopheaded cypress, prepared me for claims of first cuckoos(...)

Deception: the cuckoo lays its eggs in another bird’s nest. Illustration: Michael Viney

A farmer friend once showed me how to summon a cuckoo from the sky. As its call chimed tirelessly from beyond the trees around his house he spa(...)