One of my former flatmates had a phobia about birds flapping anywhere near her. I thought of her recently when we found a jackdaw in the shed when we were clearing out the Old Man’s place the other day. One of my brothers screamed like a girl when he opened the door and onlookers would have been amused to watch four men in their mid-to-late 50s (I’ll be kind to my eldest sibling) flapping more than the startled bird as it – and they – tried to get out of the door.
Trapped birds seem to be a theme this week, as I found a black bird in the new greenhouse hiding under the basil and tomatoes. I ushered the relieved bird to the exit and got on with weeding, picking out side shoots and cutting salad.
But then things got more sinister as, in a scene lifted from Hitchcock, I visited the greenhouse a few days later to check on my (now ripening) tomatoes. The Sweet Millions are my little darlings – they are being produced in burgeoning numbers. Under my careful direction they are my leading actors in the annual greenhouse summer blockbuster. But the dismay and horror (the horror!) I felt when I stepped into the greenhouse, like Tippi Hedren into the old farmer’s house, to find a scene of devastation and lying in a corner, behind the basil, the red eviscerated remains of my cherry tomatoes.
Cut to the next scene as, with the symphonic score rising in a crescendo, I ran breathlessly from the scene, unable to scream or even explain what I had witnessed as I got into my old ford truck and drove away.
Ok, so perhaps I over-dramatise. There were no dead bodies in the greenhouse – it was only a couple of tomatoes that had been eaten. I was not so upset that I screamed but I did utter an expletive, which Tippi would not have been allowed to do on-screen. Nor did I jump into my Ford truck: the only car in the vicinity was Mrs B’s Honda Civic. And I probably did discuss the situation with the only sentient being in the vicinity – Ella the Labrador – as I tried to work out what had been eating my tomatoes.
She did not have much to contribute to the discussion.
In retrospect it is obvious, but in the absence of smashed glass, or birds impaled on the windows, it was not entirely clear who was harvesting the tomatoes twenty-four hours prior to me picking them. It did finally dawn on me later when I saw another blackbird in the greenhouse. This bird clearly knew exactly how to get in and out, and it’s motivation was obvious as the remains for more nearly ripe toms were left on the soil.
Birds have been a problem this year. In addition to the usual attacks from pigeons, sparrows have destroyed my pea crop and the blackbirds had also had a good go at the blueberries and raspberries. So now, in addition to the soft fruit being covered in netting, the greenhouse has netting draped over the roof and door to deter any airborne invasion.
The tomatoes are ripening nicely but I remain wary of flocks of birds gathering on the wires, in the trees, peas or anywhere near the greenhouse.