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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2007


Battles of the Bird Table

Over the last year a war has been taking place in Stirling. Unreported yet fiercely contested, a series of battles have taken place, all for the control of the bird table.

When we first moved into our house 18 months ago I decided to establish a welcome for our bird life in the form of a bird table. I based my construction on our washing line post at the far end of the garden and built a platform to sit on top of it and bought bird feeders to hang from its four arms. What delight, as birds flocked to the feeders and began to give hours of pleasure. As time moved on this was to become the battle ground.

The first conflict was with the squirrels – well recognised as a potential enemy - but their ability to gnaw through the plastic feeders to release the contents was quite a surprise. A modification to the design created an enclosed area that was difficult to access for them and a new metal construction feeder lasted much longer.

Squirrel

Here begins a feline interlude – we have a cat, and most people would say that there goes your bird life in the garden. You haven’t met our cat. The birds love her. She is the most unthreatening object in our garden – her vain attempts at crawling low & un-noticed across the lawn towards the bird table are greeted with contempt by the avian community because they all know two things:- firstly she cannot scale the washing line post and secondly that if she could she wouldn’t know what to do when she did. We try carefully not to undermine her pride but recognise that her position in the food chain relies more on the fridge opening than the bird table.


The crows were the next enemy. At first they relied on the scattering of seeds that fell on the lawn as a result of other birds feeding but greed got the best of them and they wanted their own supply. Watching the antics of a fully grown hoodie hang on to the feeder to release food for his mates was quite fascinating but not to the satisfaction of the corvus breed. They wanted the source. Somehow they worked out how to knock the feeder off the peg ( can crows undo clove hitch knots?) and hey presto – it's banquet time for Mr Crow.

One thing that did surprise me was the confidence of the smaller birds in the presence of the crows. A host of tits occupied the feeders whilst two or three carrion/ hooded crows sat on the fence grumpily cawing and flapping their wings until something dropped on the lawn. Then it was every crow for itself for the spoils of the peckings of the smaller fry. The tits continued feeding unconcerned.

Soon the squirrels returned and identified that by gnawing through the attachment cord they could drop the feeder onto the ground and open it up for their delight. The ever present wood pigeons appreciate this as well. The addition of a metal framed peanut feeder seems to have satisfied the squirrels though they dislike the bolts I incorporated as perches and remove them at the first opportunity. To watch them hanging by back legs from the arms or scratching their way up the main post and hanging on for dear life is very amusing so I accept their presence as a necessity and indeed an entertainment.

As in most wars of course the local community carries on regardless. The sparrows – with young in spring months – the blue tits, great tits, coal tits, chaffinches, green finches & robins all visit regularly throughout the conflict and seem relatively unperturbed by the battle. This is good news for this contented bird watcher who enjoys every minute of their visits to the battle ground and is only too happy to replenish the supplies.

© Keith Ratcliffe

June 2007


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