What is the cheeky blighter up to? I couldn’t believe my eyes. The big fat pigeon was…. now don’t get me wrong. I have no objection to feeding the pigeons, after all most of them are the descendants of war heroes. We were happy enough to strap bombs to their backs and send them into enemy territory; or without even a cyanide tablet tucked under their wing, carry coded messages which would mark them out as the enemy. There have been many heroic pigeons, there is no doubt about that, but our debt to them is so easily forgotten. More often than not pigeons are described as ‘vermin’ which is a word we use when we want to get rid of something without feeling guilty. But you give me a definition of vermin that doesn’t apply to mankind himself.
The spring feeding has begun in the garden. The birds are busy nesting and they need to drop by for some fast food. I’ve put out some no-mess sunflowers kernels which have been a big hit. In contrast the stripy sunflower seeds are piling up in unwanted heaps. The mice are taking up the slack though. I can imagine them sitting round peeling open the cases like a family shelling peas. A particularly adventurous mouse managed to climb right inside the seed bag one night. He must have had a great time until he realised he couldn’t get out. The next morning, as I dug deep into the bag, I got a jet propelled mouse in my face.
Once the babies arrive the birds will need some protein. I get mealworms by the sack full. No point messing about with those puny punnets from the garden centre. Feeding dried meal worm is the next best thing to feeding live meal worm, unless of course you are a meal worm, in which case neither is a good option.
Sparrows in particular need protein as part of their life cycle. They look for spiders and flies to feed their squawking babies, but we have been so good an eliminating most of the flies that we have also eliminated most of the sparrows. C’est la vie. At least the butcher doesn’t have to cover his meat now that he has a blue death ray on the wall. I’m the first to admit that it was annoying to open the back door on a hot summer’s day and have all the flies pop by to see what you were watching on t.v. They would circle the room and play loop the loop with each other before crashing into your nose just when the cyber men emerged on Dr. Who. Very annoying to us, but very vital to our wildlife. Open your back door now and you will probably only get a myopic bee who will crash around for a while and eventually pass out on your window sill. Am I the only one who misses the flies? If I find maggots in the food bin, I tip them into the compost heap and hope that they will turn into big fat bluebottles. As far as I know, it is not possible to buy bluebottle feeder strings, but if it were, then I am sure we would see the return of our old friend the sparrow.
So back to the pigeon. In my garden the pigeons can eat all the seeds on the ground and all
the seeds on the feeder tray. Because the tray is conveniently placed next to the seed tube, they can also eat most of the seeds in here by balancing their legs akimbo, one on each side of the tray and swinging forward with a dipping head action. I have no problem with that. But pigeons eat in flash mobs and devour every morsel. By the time the little guys get a look in, everything has gone. The great tits and the robins needed to have a fighting chance, I thought. So I decided to put some extra feeders out that only they could reach. I hung a small dish feeder with a fetching blue protective dome, above the strawberry hanging basket. I soon saw a great tit check it out and shyly come for one seed at a time. They really are so polite these birds; they would never take the last biscuit from the plate, whereas the pigeon has no idea of manners. I was delighted that my plan was working and throughout the day I noticed the great tit visit the blue dome feeder on a number of occasions.
But the whole balance of nature was thrown into turmoil by a man with a ladder and a transistor radio. He was painting the outside of my neighbour’s house and he was clearly being paid by the hour. He started early and worked slowly to mid-afternoon, crashing around with his ladder and keeping all the birds at bay with a non-stop diatribe of talk sport radio. Even I was forced from the garden due to the persistent excitement of the presenter over someone kicking a ball. The great tits, who were beginning to linger in the branches of the tree, flew to other lands of plenty. The robins, who used to hop between the flower pots finding all the seeds the pigeons couldn’t reach, bailed out as well. I can see why we didn’t use robins in the war effort. Only the pigeons remained, huddled on the roof and stoic to the end. From time to time they ventured down as far as the fence, but invariably at that moment the painter would have to get something from the shed and they would all fly off again. I am sure that he had no idea of the harm he was doing to my urban restaurant service.
Late in the afternoon, when the extending ladder was finally cut down to size and the radio silenced, the pigeons were able to come down for a feed. They crowded around the pots and fought for pole position on the feeder tray. I can’t blame them for being a bit tetchy; after all they’d sat on the roof looking at the food spread out before them for hours on end. It must have been like going to an all-you-can-eat restaurant on your diet fast day. They quickly devoured everything in sight and then one eagle-eyed pigeon noticed all the plump, untouched seeds in the blue dome feeder. All he had to do was find a way to reach them. I had made it much easier than I realised as he was able to use the strawberry planter as a handy perch and trampling wilfully on all the fresh young shoots he walked about trying to find the best angle to reach the feeder tray. That’s when I saw him the cheeky blighter. Stretching up his fluorescent purple neck in order to eat from the small birds only food dish. I can’t say I blame him. He’s just a pigeon entrepreneur, able to see a gap in the market. The great tits have still not returned, so they must be stamping their loyalty card at an alternative venue. Hopefully, once the babies arrive and demand for food is high, all my usual customers will be dropping by again.