With some eighty or so flats looking onto this back green there are roughly 200 inhabitants that can lay claim to a small piece of this skwer. Yet it is not the human occupants that represent the greatest movement within the square. Sure, the people come and go, most, on average, just once a day, but it’s the birds that bring the real animation to the skwer. This is most evident in those bare-boned days of late autumn, winter, and very early spring when the follicles of trees extend nakedly into the air. Visibility is greatly increased, not just of the city rising up in the background, but of the birds flying and perching in the foreground.

There are the Siberian rooks scouting about from November to March, many to be seen lock-jawed with walnuts or hazelnuts. There are the fieldfares who occasionally group up and crash the scene, invariably demobbed by the magpies or jackdaws; then, there are the three resident magpies which I have almost been tempted to name; there are the sparrows and tits in the shrubbery, and the odd vagrant pigeon flirting on the rooftops. The rooftops are a wonderful world for the birds. The chimneys upon them are mere stepping stones for the primadonna magpies who hop balletically up before flicking their tail feathers to any lesser agile beings that might be watching. From here the magpie surveys its surroundings before hopping and skipping along the roof to its edge and performing the most graceful dive since Greg Louganis.

The single aerial extending some fifteen feet above the roof is pretty much reserved for the collared dove when he shows his face. From here he echoes his ‘coo’ across the skwer.

The eaves of the roofs belong to the jackdaws; the ventilation grills, all 48 of them in this U-shaped skwer, to the tits who seem quite remarkably to insinuate themselves between their tiny grill holes.

Very occasionally, infrequent visitors (hooded crows, spotted woodpeckers, jays and tree creepers) will pass through, and give the place a once over. They seem however to prefer the un-hemmed grass verges and trees of nearby cemeteries and parks. On top of all this, and as if an elegy to the previous year, come the Bohemian waxwings, down from Scandinavia, who, for the past three Warsaw winters I have presided over the skwer, have never failed to show. In fact, you could almost set your clock by them. I remember their first appearance in the winter of 2006 as being roughly a week after Poland’s Independence day (November 11th), or a couple of days after 'Hydro-Max' day (when the communal heating in the block is turned up from its tepid setting to full-blast). In 2007, they were a day late! This year (2008), however, they made up for it, by arriving a day early.

The dapper little waxwings (jemioluszki) lightly coat the top of the great skeletal elm like an organic wig. Today, they arrived in three separate squadrons. To the right of the skwer as I lean out the window I can see several collected atop the Xmas tree conifer. They seem to be tree-hopping gathering what nourishment they can along the way. With their little Mohawks waving in the wind the great elm bristles once again. Atop the elm's tendrils, the waxwings' constant yet subtle shrills light up the whole skwer. The jackdaws have fallen silent. For some several minutes the waxwings remain perched atop the elm. Today, it is a real spectacle, with some two hundred all vying for that top twig. After some ten minutes of shuffling and shrilling, and as if to live up their name, they all flash towards the same orb of mistletoe (jemiola) for its berries in the bottom left of the tree.

Once teeming with the parasitical plant, the great elm now has only a few bunches left (since it was tended last year). At that precise moment, a jackdaw lets out a yelp, and within that same second a cloud of 'mistletoers' are spraying aerosol across the rooftops into the dreary mist of November. For a moment, as I snap a picture, this darkened phalanx of wings in full flight looks like a signature of the sky. Like a cluster of starlings they dance chemicalised across the sky in tight unison. These little guys are just one of the heavens’ many live contrails, vibrant organic clouds, which shrink into the distance, before eventually becoming nameless.

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