We had a bit of a disaster on the mealworm front. I ordered two bags of mealworm over a month ago and put the heavier of the bags away in the log shed for later. As the first bag slowly emptied I didn’t rush to order more, knowing of the stash I had put aside. Finally, the day came when I cut into the new bag to reveal 5kg of biological washing powder instead of 5kg of mealworm. No good to me or the starlings.
I tried to make up for the deficit by putting out extra suet pellets, but those starlings weren’t fooled. They looked all around to see what I had done with the mealworm; the lovely, crunchy stuff. They perched on the empty feeder, looking round at the house in a pitying manner. When it was obvious that none would appear they flew off in disgust. I noticed they came back later in the day to see if I’d found any, but of course the cupboard was still bare. I took the empty feeder in the next day rather than go through the whole charade again on the pretext of giving it a good wash.
The weather is still warm and it is mid-November. The flowers are in bloom and some of the spring bulbs have made an early entrance. They will get a nasty shock when the eventual cold November winds blow in. Usually by this time I have all the geraniums tucked up in their winter shelter, but we haven’t even bothered to get the cover down from the loft yet. The weather will probably take a turn and catch us all out.
There was an unexpected side effect to the mealworm famine. The small birds took advantage of the fact that the starlings were not constantly squabbling at the feeder station. I saw a great tit and a couple of sparrows visit the garden. I haven’t seen the sparrows since the hedge came down. Just like teenage students, you don’t see them for months on end, then they come home uninvited and expect to find food on the table. Mind you there has been plenty of natural food with this extraordinarily mild start to winter. I’ve seen striped buzzing things still visiting my open blooms, so there must be plenty of flies to eat. I even saw a butterfly on the wing. Most of the mozzies from the accidental pond have gone off in search of flesh. Only the blood worms remain; wriggling at the bottom of the tray never turning into anything other than bigger blood worms.
Then the new bag of mealworm arrived and it was like the relief of Mafficking as the starlings descended on it. I’m wondering whether to ration them so that the food has all gone by early morning and restore a bit of the previous peace and quiet to the garden. During a lull in feeding yesterday I saw a cockatiel land on the fence and check out the feeders. They fly overhead in great numbers as dusk falls. They gather in a nearby tree and responding to some secret signal take off on mass, momentarily blackening the skies.
Hard times have hit the household since I lost my job. I’m afraid we are all tightening our belts and that includes the wildlife. I’ve been shopping around for cheaper fat balls. After some complicated maths I worked out that the chunky dumplings, luscious though they are, cost me 41p a go. Our pet shop has 35 (identical looking) fat balls for £6.99, halving the price. The on-line mealworm is still the cheapest (when it isn’t soap powder) but I will have to put less out each day. I find my small eco crisis fits neatly with world events. Individually we may or may not be interested in politics, but none of us can live in the world and not be affected by political decisions. In the UK the government is gradually moving money from the public sector into the private sector. Consequently, my job got contracted out over the summer. The new contractors set different qualification standards and bingo, I’m out of a job. Then of course I cut back to save money and contribute to a shrinking economy. Today I heard on the radio that the UK could be heading for another recession and I know why. Because people like me aren’t able to buy fat balls and meal worm and all the other things which keep the economy moving. So far the cats are safe, though Sooty costs me a fortune in cat litter since she developed a sensitive bladder. She must visit her tray 3 or 4 times a day, poor old girl.
The pigeons looked confused yesterday when the seed I put down ran out too quickly. I had reduced their portion, in line with the fiscal plan, by two handfuls of seed, a 20% reduction. They walked round in circles for some time looking for the missing seed. They may not be able to count, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any idea of quantity. I guess they will adjust. We will all have to. There are berries out on the bushes which grow against the alley wall. I have seen the pigeons pulling them off with sharp tugs of their beaks. Berries are good and berries are free. Perhaps the answer to my problem is to grow more food providing plants and let them ‘pick their own’. Let’s face it the more food I put out the more babies they will have next spring. This year they all managed to have a double brood and brought the fledglings straight to my garden before abandoning them to fend for themselves. My urban garden has become a source of sustenance for quite a few creatures in the local area. What happens to them if the seed dries up? Interfering with nature is a dangerous business.