Sunday, 31 May 2015

For the birds

Once upon a time there was a garden in the countryside that was visited daily by lots and lots of lovely little birds. There were all sorts of birds including chaffinches, bullfinches, greenfinches, thrushes, sparrows, and even the occasional woodpecker.
Then one day pigeons moved in to a nearby group of tall trees, and as the garden descended into a post-apocalyptic free-for-all, the nice little birds said "Fuck this for a game of soldiers, I'm off!".

Unlike other fairytales the above is true (although the nice little birds may not have been quite so blunt in their assessment of the situation) and of course it gave rise to half of this blog's title. Putting bird seed out become a war of determination and ingenuity between me and the pigeons. Obviously labelling the seed 'For nice birds only' wasn't going to work, so eventually I realised that a strategic  reduction of the pigeon population was the easiest course of action with the added benefit that I could enjoy eating the recently deceased for supper. Pan fried pigeon breasts with onion and a sprinkle of herbs - lovely.
Pigeons are wiley buggers and even putting vertical metal bars between the bird table base and the roof didn't completely resolve the problem, but in the end it wasn't just the pigeons that were causing trouble. Crows now started muscling in on the scene and even though they too are surprisingly tasty (a sort of cross between pork and duck) it became clear that the whole business of feeding the birds had to end.

Currently the now roofless bird table only plays host to a small stone gargoyle, and the pigeon suppers have all but stopped because most of the pigeons that stayed when the group of trees were reduced from about fifty feet to nearer twenty, are experienced enough to know that my garden is a no-fly zone.
That's not the end of the story though, because now there's an even bigger pest problem than the pigeons ever posed in the form of starlings. These little bastards are the feathered equivalent of a plane-load of typical British lager-louts on the piss in Ibiza, and must surely be amongst the most disagreeable birds on the planet. They disturb the peace with their horrid harsh squawking, descending en-masse on next door's bird feeder like a biblical plague.
It's an interesting observation that in general the birds that are unwanted in the garden like starlings, crows and pigeons all get around on the ground by walking, whereas the cute ones that you actually want to be good to tend to hop. Wonder if there's something in that? 
It must cost the old bloke next door a small fortune in fat balls, which are to starlings what catnip is to the average moggie, and I have to wonder why he does it. He goes out there two or three times a day to top up the feeder with seed, fat balls and bits of bread, and every visit is followed immediately by an influx of starlings and crows that decimate the provisions in no time at all, ensuring that our place is now ground zero for unwanted ornithological activity. I also don't understand why he keeps doing it all year round. Providing seed etc during the winter months when food is scarce seems like a good thing to do, but I can't help thinking that birds need to be encouraged to fend for themselves during the times when nature is providing for their needs - otherwise they'll surely end up becoming dependent on humans and not be able to pass on the skills of foraging to their young.

There's a couple of robins and a wren that have managed to remain in the area, cleaning up the odd bit of seed that the deluge of destruction has missed, but I do wonder how much longer they will hang around.
Maybe I'll invest in some sort of bird scarer that I can install in the corner of the garden right near the neighbour's bird feeder. It's either that or I make a spring-loaded life-size zombie that will pop up from behind his hedge when he goes near the feeder. One coronary later the starlings won't be getting an easy three square meals a day and they'll move on.
No, I mustn't have ideas like that - that's bad......