GOB 125 Twist in the Tail
This article first appeared in the January 2020 edition of Birdwatching magazine
I think I may have thrown the birding baby out with the feline bathwater!
Regular readers will know that I fight a running battle with the neighbourhood cats whose owners let them roam night and day. I decided that the only way to stop them leaving a mass of bloody feathers beneath my feeders, of the mangle corpses of frogs by my pond is to cat-proof my domain.
As you may not block your neighbours’ light by opaque fencing more than six feet high my only choice is to add a further few feet of wire netting. The trouble was that over the two decades I’ve lived here my shrubs have tried to escape over the fences whilst one neighbouring absentee landlord has allowed his garden to become ivy jungle beginning to push over our shared fence.
We started by pulling the honeysuckle off the lilac tree, as several branches had been strangled to death. Then we tackled an evergreen bush that was hanging three feet over the fence. Suddenly it was like someone had turned on the lights. Things were so overgrown that our tiny yard had been thoroughly shaded. Between jobs the planters madly flourished. Finding the burst of colour to our delight we set about removing another large evergreen shrub of the same sort next to our feeding station in the darkest corner of the garden. Once more the planted pots bloomed anew delighting the bees.
Behind the feeders was the invading massed ivy. It took a few pleading phone calls for the owner’s agent to act. We asked that the ivy be trimmed so we could add our netting. Instead of the request inch they went a mile, trimming back their huge pyracanthus tree and stripping out a corridor through the ivy jungle against our fence.
More light flooded in and we have begun to top the fences with netting much to the disdain of a couple of moggies that snuck in but made Garfield shapes against the netting trying to scramble out again. Most encouraging… we are hopeful that when the circuit of wire is complete we can be feline free!
We beamed with pride over the burgeoning pot plants. We grinned with the anticipation of a secure boundary, but over the days since, our heads have been hanging low. Where are all the birds? Have we deterred birds whilst trying to stave off their Waterloo?
Since the sparrow decline they have built their numbers by stuffing their faces until a flock of forty would regularly descend. Goldfinches chatter on the telephone wires until we leave the garden and they flock down to fill crops with sunflower hearts. Dunnocks and robins, blackbirds and doves skitter beneath the feeders. Starling bully boys snaffle the fat-balls and tits flit in and out for suet banquets. We’ve even had a regular Jay managing to winkle great chunks of fat-ball from the feeder.
But this week we had hardly any visitors at all. A tit or two and the odd goldfinch. Half a dozen sparrows still roost in the Pyracanthus but ignore all the food. There hasn’t been a single starling on the peanut butter and even our regular two pairs of dunnocks have deserted our domain.
Whenever I look out of my study window there aren’t even any collared doves or feral pigeons loitering about.
Is it the disturbance that has put them off? Have I removed too much cover? Did the very ivy that hid the crouching cat offered them the delusion of sanctuary! Over the fence a fat feline is smirking, a ‘serves you right’ expression across her whiskers.