Thistle do

I spent some of my Sabbaticalette listening to people, who know much better than I, how to blog. Their unanimous verdict: I blither on far too long and should keep it short and not sweet but dry, in fact as dry as an ice-cold schooner of Manzanilla, bang in the middle of the Atacama desert. Minimum. So…

In my blog ‘Wildlife no wild life’ I alluded to the gluttonous predations of the parakeets. I immediately withdrew the seed mixture, and instead filled the hanging bird-feeder with the seed of the thistle (possible basis of a nice tongue-twister there). You see, I was keen to lure some rather more chic (sic) birdies, goldfinch, for example, to my all-you-can-eat seed bar. I also bet the thistle seeds wouldn’t be attractive to the rapacious parakeets. And so it proved to be.

For a fortnight or so there was little interest, then one morning I came down to espy through the conservatory window two tiny little feathered foreigners perched at the feeder, enjoying an extremely hearty thistle-seed breakfast. Magic.

The binoculars finally gave themselves up from the bowels of some chest-of-draws, and revealed with breath-taking clarity their exquisite details: dark sleek tailcoats, flash of yellow lining, two pairs of opposing white gross-piped buttonholes on the tails, tawny golden back and waistcoat, black head, white ruff, brilliant red forehead and ivory roman bill. Goldfinches; so smartly formal they just must’ve been taking a break from their duties as senior functionaries at some fantastical avian plumed court, only visible to the mind’s eye.

Soon greenfinches also appeared, and then there were three of both species, in each case two males competing for a female. It was, after all, the season of the rising sap. If goldfinches are courtly officials, greenfinches are country squires in smart tweed suits. A happy couple of weeks passed, the finches visiting many times a day.

I was naturally pretty chuffed (itself a bit of a birdie word, no?), and resolved to take my kindergarten twitching to the next level. According to Tinternet, blue tits visit over 90% of British gardens. So how come I don’t see blue tits? A rarity only in our garden, they’re nevertheless colourful enough to salt the interminable greens and duns of the natural world. I want them.

Different birds like different birdseed, of course. So, sez I to myself, why don’t we get the single most beak-smackingly irresistible seed to lure not just blue tits but chaffinches, and please, please God, I will believe in you, if only you would send me a brace of bullfinches.

Sunflower hearts.

Of course we needed an extra hanging bird-feeder. A brand new ‘Squirrel Buster Mini’ and an enormous bag of sunflower hearts were soon delivered, and all was up and running. It was an instant hit with our feathered friends, loved by finches as well as robins and great tits. But still no blue tits, let alone bullfinches. Woodpigeons, feral pigeons, collared doves, and little dunnocks cleared up the mess made by those quite literally above them in the pecking order.

All was fine until I noticed the hearts were disappearing at an unconscionable rate. The worst case was a whole hopper gone in a day. Suspicions were aroused and not in vain. Next day one of the stealthy culprits gave the game away when I caught him unawares hanging upside down on the wire mesh drum enclosing the seed hopper. A parakeet’s weight is evidently not enough to depress the drum and close the feeding ports, but its body’s too long to get at the seed if sitting on the tiny perches beside each port; hence the contortions.

Of course, this just had to be stopped, immediately. The answer was, well I never, duct tape and acetate. The parakeets’ theft depends on their claw-grip on the mesh. What I needed and what I got was a smooth talon-proof material, ideally transparent, to wrap around the mesh drum and deny their foothold. Five A4 sheets of 0.5 mm acetate were soon at my disposal, and one cut to size and taped around the mesh drum in no time. A perfectly passable working prototype of the “Squirrel and Ring-Necked Parakeet Buster Mini” it is. You can even see the seed level.

I’ve just filled and hung it. A cunning enough wheeze: quick easy build, inexpensive, a paradigm of the Kenzai principle of Constant And Never-ending Improvement; while it hardly justifies Icarean self-regard, I do feel quite pleased with myself.

Will it work? We shall see in future drollery.

3 thoughts on “Thistle do”

  1. I have enjoyed the full on version in order to get the full flavour of the story, and they can be much funnier. But I suppose it also depends on the audience. Those with less time to spare may prefer a shorter edition. Richard

    1. Thank you for this. That’s very interesting and kind. I think I’ll persist for the time being with the shorter versions, not least because they’re less stressful to write. I’ll try to supercharge them with quips so you still get a good chortle. Darby

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