I hung a birdfeeder on the branch of a tree in my backyard some weeks ago — and it has given me hours of enjoyment.
It cost me €10 (Dh47.31), and I bought some bird seed from an old hardware shop that sold everything from priming pumps to panelling pins, bicycle kits to kitchen sinks, turpentine to bales of twine. I could have spent hours down the narrow aisles, trying to find uses for things that I haven’t got the faintest what they’re used for. Farmers who drove stout cars pulling horseboxes with stouter cattle would no doubt find a veterinary use for some of the agriculture implements dangling from the rafters.
I can tell you that not all bird seed is created equal. I think I must have missed the class in junior school when it came to figuring out whether square pegs do indeed fit in round holes. In the case of the €10 birdfeeder, it’s wire mesh with square holes, and unless you fill it with peanuts, it’s a mugs’ game for rooks.
You see, when you fill it with peanuts, the little birds, like red-breasted robins and greenfinches land and grab onto the wire mesh, and slowly eat their way through the feed. I swear that when it’s empty, they must be secretly watching me from their nests, waiting for it to be filled back up again. No sooner have I put peanuts back into it, and a series of chirps go up. I don’t speak robin nor greenfinch, but I swear they’re saying: “right lads, breakfast, lunch and dinner is served.”
The robins are the bravest — cheekiest perhaps. It is they who are always first to the feeder, always nearby, always watching it.
The birds play a game. When the greenfinches come in, they perform a little aerial dance of sorts, with the robins allowing them to feed for a bit — always no more than 10 seconds or so. Then the robins swoop in and chase the greenfinches away, have their feed, then allow the greenfinches back. This goes on all day long — as long as it’s not raining too heavily.
When it blows a gale and the rain is driving down in sheets, only the robins are brave enough to feed, clinging onto the mesh for dear life.
And like I said, not all bird seed is created equal.
The peanuts ran out, and I had to go back to that old store for some more. But in the crowded shelves with the contraptions that could capture an elephant, do serious harm to a hedgerow, or castrate a bullock, I could find no nuts.
Being a newbie at this bird-feeding malarkey, I picked up some other seeds, forgetting about the size of my mesh.
When I went out to fill it with the new seed, that missed lesson about square pegs and round holes hit home — the small seed would easily fall through the mesh.
The chirps go up that the feeder is full again, and the aerial theatre resumed.
But enter the rooks.
If you’re not familiar with rooks, they travel in packs intent on doing serious harm — a bit like the Millwall football fans of the avian world. But they are smart. Very smart.
They quickly size up the situation and swoop in, only they realise that they can’t hang on to the mesh like the little birds do.
One hops onto the fence and thinks for a minute. Then it hops onto the branch where the feeder hangs and starts to make it bounce, shaking the miss-sized feed through the mesh, making it fall on the grass for his mates.
I wonder if Millwall fans could figure that out?