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Your Friends the Birds


Just over a month ago I was waxing lyrical about our numerous feathered friends, (the birds) who we'd taken under our wing for another year. We'd pushed the boat out on a regular basis and supplied a literally never-ending stream of dried mealworms, wheat-free seed mix, and latterly, some rather tasty summer seed mix. Yet, despite all this effort and expense (not that we begrudge it), there was a problem.

Lets go back a bit

You probably won't know this, but about 4 years we planted a rather spindly-looking "twig" that claimed to be a flowering cherry tree. The pictures in the catalogue looked wonderful, with masses of white blossoms that promised not only to be a haven for bees and other insects, but also the start of a plentiful supply of cherries. When we planted the poor thing it looked rather small and sorry for itself, and for the first year there were few blossoms, and no actual cherries. Never mind though; trees are renowned for growing slowly, and what was pleasing was the amount of leaves that grew quickly - always a good sign.

As time went on, the cherry appeared to "find its feet" and started growing at a quite a rate. It soon reached the stage where it was tall enough to reach beyond the top of the fence, but was getting regularly battered by the wind. More importantly, it the blossom was becoming more prolific, and then the cherries started to appear. I quickly used some boundary fence wire to reinforce it, and this had the added benefit of stopping a lot of blossom getting blown off. So far so good.

First crop

The great thing about having a fruiting tree is that you can observe each stage of the cycle from tiny seed pod to finished fruit. I must say that the first time we saw our cherries growing they looked distinctly un-cherry-like. In fact, a kind of green pea-like pod appeared which then appeared to wizen: we were prepared for disappointment as the blossoms had been pretty good, but a while later the first cherries started to arrive, and by the time it came to harvest them I'd had to invest in a "cherry picker" pole which let me get the ones at the top of the tree. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!” He chortled in his joy. We had a good selection of cherries and we were happy: next year's crop would be better though...

So this year...

As you know, the Covid19 lockdown meant that we had plenty of time to spend in the garden, and there was a very noticeable change in the Natural World, mainly due to the lack of pollution. We observed that the weather was generally calmer, and the number of birds seem to have increased as well. Whereas we'd normally put the bird feeders away in mid-April, this year we felt obliged to keep them going (and in fact we're still filling them up even now). The birds seemed hungrier this year, and chicks arrived a bit earlier. The pigeons, who initially looked rather scrawny from their sudden lack of junk-food scraps had suddenly (?) become voracious feeders, and managed to peck their way through a 5-litre tub of mixed seed. No problem! They even tried a few dried mealworms but no, seed was the favourite, and boy, did they look plump and sleek?! If we'd been a meat eater it would have been a good year....

So one evening, sitting out in the back garden, sipping chilled wine and chatting, we suddenly became aware of a rather agitated fluttering in the cherry tree, which incidentally had presented an amazing show of blossoms, then seed pods this year. As we excitedly discussed how we'd eat cherry pie, and jam, the rustling became more agitated and we could see that 2 enormous pigeons had landed in our tree and were busily feasting on some easily- reached seed pods. "No matter" we thought, "there's enough for everyone this year and we cant rely deny them". Of course, when a "good thing" has been found it's hard to leave it alone, and as we sat out each evening the pigeon couple would come and visit at the same time: maybe they liked the company.

And then it dawned on us

Yes dear reader, it did dawn on us. A few weeks later we thought it would be the right time to check on the potential cherry harvest, when it slowly quickly dawned on us that there not actually any cherries on the tree. No. Not. A. Single. Cherry. Those pesky pigeons had not only ravaged the seed bird feeder they'd also COMPLETELY DECIMATED THE CHERRY CROP. We were aghast. Hard words were exchanged. Very uncomplimentary things were said about birds in general and pigeons in particular. We almost wept to think how we'd nutured these flying hoovers, fretting about their young pigeon chicks and their health and welfare in these Strange Times. And how had they repaid us? Well, let me just say that I have seriously gone off pigeons as a species, but hey, it's really the luck of the draw with growing tgings. Nature had a right to take first pickings and to be honest I'm not about to climb a 4m tree to shoo them away.

There's always next year after all, and the year after that. And who knows, if we get back to the "old" normal after the lockdown lifts, the pigeons may just decide to go back to their old diet of junk food, and leave our cherries alone. Once can hope...

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Last Modified Tue, 30 Nov 2021 15:35:05 GMT