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Rab discovers his new nesting boxes are giving his feathered friends the bird

Rab Mcneil.
Rab Mcneil.

I have low hopes for the two birds’ nest-boxes I put up. Well, I didn’t so much put them up from scratch as restore and paint them. No signs of life yet and, by the time you read this, there certainly should have been comings and goings.

Wild or garden life is funny like that. Recently, I mentioned how you create areas or put in plants that they’re supposed to like and they just ignore them.

A letter-writer in a London newspaper amusingly reported a similar experience. Having heard many owls in his garden, he built his own nesting box then risked life and limb to climb a tall tree to fix it in position. Result: “We didn’t hear another owl for three years.”

Recently, I heard a convocation of owls shouting the odds in my garden and surrounding vicinity. Actually, I’ve just looked up the collective noun for owls and it’s a “parliament” and, true enough, it did rather sounds as if they were having a rumbustious debate. Certainly, they did a lot of hooting at each other.

But I haven’t heard anything since that one night. I suppose they must range far and wide. I have, however, had a plethora (in the general, collective sense) of finches – gold, green, bull – and they’re all so lovely, as are the siskins.

I had to laugh at someone in that same letters page being unintentionally funny when he eulogised the rise in birds of prey in his area but lamented why there were now fewer small birds. Er: Maths. The. Do

We have rooks here, of course, and one of them almost talks as they fly overhead. It’s odd how there’s often one in a gang (sorry, these collective nouns are becoming ever more vague) of birds that seems more intelligent or friendly than the others.

Rab’s birdbox.

One female blackbird here comes within a few inches of my appalling and frightening presence (the gardening trousers are admittedly scary) for suet pellets. The others just give me peculiar looks from a distance. They’ve all got different personalities, I suppose.

But birds in general are right weird. They’re like cats at times. A cat wants out, so you open a door for it, and then it just sits there refusing to budge. Birds are similar. If there’s nothing in the feeder, they make a big show of pecking at it disconsolately and giving you accusatory looks.

So, you put out more seeds, and they fly away and don’t return for ages. I think it’s an evolutionary memory of traps being laid by ever untrustworthy humans. But they must know by now what a big sap I am.

Oddly enough, in the midst of writing this thesis or lecture, I took a wee dander outside and thought I saw a peerie bird in the vicinity of one bird box. But there’s no sign of any home-building inside.

Both boxes are on the side of my shed, where I’d found them originally, and they probably don’t want their bairns hearing me next door loudly asking the gods why I can always find every tool except the one I’m looking for.

They realise the shed is the centre of all the DIY. It’s disaster HQ. Probably not the best place to bring up your bairns.

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