My grand-daughter Charlotte, who is my PA and amanuensis, is a devoted bird watcher as I am, but my word don’t the birds in my garden know it! Beautiful they might be and often very tuneful but they’re a gang of feathered bullies and we live in thrall to their appetites. There is nothing to equal a squabble of starlings who are all convinced they are half starved and insist on another suet cake – now, this minute, or else! We are constantly rushing to the shops instead of getting on with our work on the latest novel, to replenish stocks and the minute they’re hung on the tree they all descend in a shrieking pack to push for the first mouthful. Sometimes they push so hard that they knock one another out of the trees. Nature’s clowns, our starlings.
The blackbirds are far more decorous, except when they’re fighting one another and that can get quite nasty. But they come to the bird table politely and stamp on the lawns to encourage the earthworms to emerge as delicately as if they were dancing. Great favourites of ours the blackbirds.
The goldfinches and blue tits have another technique for making us feel guilty at their deplenished state. They perch delicately on the bird tables, pick at the limited seeds that are all they’ve got left and gaze pathetically through the french windows, like starving orphans. So naturally we have to go rushing off to the shops again.
And then there are the pigeons, hordes and hordes of them. They look baffled when they perch on our slender lilacs and fruit trees in an attempt to get at the feeders because it always ends with them falling out of the trees. Then they’re reduced to lurking underneath the feeders in the vain hope that one of the smaller birds will spill some seed in their direction. Vain because although plenty of seed is spilt, the starlings have it in seconds.
Our politest and shyest visitor is a green woodpecker who comes far too rarely to stab his long beak into the grass and look at us timidly. He makes no demands on us at all.
And of course there is always the robin, who is a family friend and knows it. All hail to all you ‘blithe spirits’. What would our garden be without you?