If the neighbours and my husband weren’t convinced before, they know now for sure that I am mad. “Absolutely bonkers”, “Lost the plot”, “It’s an age thing!” You see, for the last four weeks I have been playing a new game called “Shoo!” or, more precisely, “Shoo Off You ***** Pigeons”. (What I’ve actually named it I can’t print here – I’m a lady; a mad one, but still a lady!) Let me explain.
Some ten years ago, the owner of one of the houses opposite at the back of us passed away. He kept racing pigeons. The new owners let them loose but, being homing pigeons, they stayed, flocking together on the same roof, increasing in numbers and going feral. Pigeons are classed as vermin in this country and in many locations illegal to feed or encourage them; and for good reason – they are noisy, drop their acidic poop over everything, including the washing, decimate veg plots and gobble food put out for other smaller birds. Up until this year they hadn’t been a problem for us as they stayed over there.
As you probably know, I am a huge bird fan, and always put food out for the garden birds. For my recent birthday, my husband bought me a fancy bird feeding station and erected it on the edge of the patio, so during wet weather and winter I wouldn’t have to walk across wet and muddy or frozen grass to get to it. At about the same time, a pair of magpies decided to nest in a tree in the garden of the “pigeon house”. That’s when the game started.
The magpies, including what must be last year’s brood, didn’t want the pigeons in their territory and so every time they landed on the roof near the tree, chased them away. Magpies 5. Pigeons 26. No matter which roof they settled on in the surrounding houses, the magpies swooped in and saw them off. Magpies score a home run. It was fascinating to watch, and each time they did this, I cheered, except when the pigeons settled on my roof – nothing is more irritating than the constant, monotonous coo coo rattling down the chimney breast all the day; but not for long. Now it was my turn to play. Game on. Whenever I was at a window and saw the enemy heading my way, I’d wave my arms about wildly, scaring them off. Mad lady scores. If they were on the roof, I’d open a bedroom window and wave something up, be it bath towel, trousers, or pillow. You can now understand why the neighbours think I’m the looney woman at No.76.
The opposition retaliated with a new tactic. Spying the new bird feeder, they tried to land on it, breaking two of the seed holders. When they realised this ploy didn’t work, they would congregate in the garden and start eating the fallen seeds the sparrows et al had dropped, leaving their own white messages over the garden furniture, wall and car. I don’t begrudge the garden birds anything, but I do draw the line at buying seed and nuts to feed pesky pigeons. Time for a new game plan. I would wait until they had landed and then creep outside with a large mug of cold water, throwing it over them, or quietly opening the bedroom window and throwing the water from there. I have to admit, one time I threw the mug as well as the water! Point lost for broken mug. The trouble was, my garden birds were scared off too, which was a shame because they were still nervous of the new feeder and timid to use it. It seemed each time they got the hang of it and settled, the pigeons would fly in, and I would fly out and chuck water at them. By now the sparrows think I’ve turned against them.
But gradually, over the weeks, the pigeons got the hint and between the magpies and me, the pigeons have given up the fight and moved away to a roof further away. Magpies 6: Pigeons 0. The winner — me! No, actually, it’s my garden birds who have won. They are now used to the new feeding station and even confident to use it when I am sitting outside not four feet away, knowing I’m not going to give them a free shower. Normality is restored. Game over.