The birds (after Hitchcock)

At this time of year, the planting side of the garden is rather peaceful. There’s not a lot you can do after the borders are tidied up, the clematis cut down and the mass of leaves that fall off next door’s cordyline are bagged up. I don’t have a veg patch as the designated area always got waterlogged and is now paved over and partly built on; so there’s little in the way of vegetable preparation to do. The fruit trees, strawberries, blackcurrants and raspberries are all still dormant but will soon burst into leaf and bud with little further effort from me. So I can be lazy for a while.

But not all is peaceful for, from dawn to dusk, there is the continual sound of birds chirping away merrily, announcing to friends and relatives that I’ve filled the feeders and covered the bird table again. The fences running behind the hanging feeders are home to the orderly (well, usually) queues as the birds hop along in twos and threes until it’s their turn to fly to a feeder to grab a sunflower heart or bit of peanut and then fly back to the end of the queue to eat it whilst moving up for the next chance.

This surprising (to me anyway) behaviour is only upset when the starlings arrive. Usually a lone scout will appear and try to jump the queue. The army of tits, with robin reinforcements, will rapidly send this mugger on his way. But before long he will return with his extended family and all hell breaks loose as not only the tit and robin army retaliate against this mass of queue-jumpers but the starlings themselves waste time bullying each other and it isn’t long before they realise that they’re not going to get much at the feeders and off they fly.

Meanwhile, at the other side of the garden, another orderly queue has formed at the bird table or, rather, in a tree not far from it. This time, though, the queue is vertical. Birds join at the top of the tree and hop down branch by branch until it’s their turn at the table. Usually only goldfinches seem to spend time on the table; the tits (blue, great, long-tailed and occasionally coal), nuthatches, green-, chaf- and bull-finches just grab a sunflower heart and fly back to the tree to eat it whilst reserving their space in the queue again.

This orderly arrangement will, though, be disturbed a few minutes after the starlings have been driven from the bird feeders. For some reason, they don’t immediately notice the bird table but, after a short while, they will go for it in numbers. And this time they aren’t fighting each other so about 10 at a time will settle on the bird table and gorge themselves for a few minutes. Then another 10 and so on, until either the starlings are all full or all the seed has been consumed – two events which almost always seem to coincide. Off fly the starlings and there is a sudden crescendo from the (now long) queue in the tree – a noise that will be maintained until I nip out and re-cover the bird table with seed. It’s usually a tit of some sort that bravely flies down whilst I’m still spreading the sunflower hearts to do the quality control check but I’ll have hardly turned round before the normal routine is resumed.

I also need to remember to throw a couple of lines of sunflower hearts onto the lawn by about 1 o’clock each day – that’s when the sparrows come to lunch. However much I throw on the lawn will be scoffed quickly.

Occasional visitors are woodpeckers and collared doves. They come like clockwork each day and happily mingle with everyone else; despite their being 3 to 5 times bigger than the other birds the little ones don’t seem to mind. Whilst there may be a sparrow hawk visit and buzzards can be seen overhead, these are (fortunately for the other birds) very rare.

This continual twittering dies down at dusk as the birds retire to their nests and throat pastilles ready for the next day’s singing. Meanwhile their place is taken by owls who keep up a cacophony of hooting all night. I look forward to those hot summer nights when I’ll have the choice of opening a window to cool the bedroom and having no sleep thanks to the noise or keeping the window shut for some quiet but being unable to sleep in the heat!

So while the garden may be peaceful plant-wise, it’s never quiet.

Great, isn’t it?