Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dear old birdman

Something has changed in the eating habits of my winter colony of mésanges [Great Tits]. Up until now, there hasn't been much snow at Gamone, and it hasn't even been really cold yet. So, normally, the tiny birds should be able to move around easily and find food. Instead of that, they've got into the habit of lining up to enter the bird house, for sunflower seeds, or pecking at the suspended cages of fatty stuff.

Their food consumption has increased to such an extent that I decided to purchase a 15 kg bag of seeds.

It's not as if the tiny creatures scoop up mouthfuls of sunflower seeds. On the contrary, a bird picks up a single seed, then it flies up into the linden tree, a fruit tree, or maybe the dense branches of my rose pergola, where it thrashes the seed patiently, for anything up to a minute, in order to remove the husk and get at its tasty interior. A visitor to Gamone might well wonder what has caused my small pear and plum trees to be surrounded by pale husks. As soon as it has finished its seed, the bird darts back immediately to the store to obtain another seed.

I would imagine that there's a good reason for this eating surge. Many of the birds that are visiting Gamone at present were probably born here either last year or the year before, following the installation of my custom-built nesting house.

When I used to watch a couple of birds flitting around to feed and guard their precious progeny, hidden inside the box, I used to say to myself that it was a pity that these native creatures of Gamone would simply disappear in the middle of spring, without my ever actually seeing them. Well, I'm now convinced that I'm seeing and feeding these birds today. And I'm happy to find that they have healthy appetites. As the lady at the agricultural cooperative said to me: "The birds know when they've found a good address."

I decided to purchase a couple of dense cylinders of bird food made in the USA.

The one in the photo is composed of a mixture of dried fruit and crushed earthworms. Sounds delicious.

When I told the lady at the agricultural cooperative about the appetite of my birds, she looked at me with a kind expression, as if she were listening to the innocent complaints of a dear old birdman, and said: "Ah, I'm sure they keep you occupied." And she asked me if I needed help to carry the 15-kg bag of seeds out to my car. I said: "No, I think I can handle it." Then I asked myself in horror: "Jeez, am I really starting to look like a decrepit old birdman, who has nothing better to do than complain about the fact that the birds are eating him out of house and home?"

I guess so. I was wearing a round woollen bonnet pulled down over my forehead, which makes the best of men look stupid. And I've got into the habit of wearing a recently-purchased snow parka, which is ideal at this time of the year, but which has the disadvantage of making me look like a plump aging Eskimo. (And I haven't even got around yet to donning the fabulous black rabbit-fur chapka that I purchased recently, made in Russia or China, which would only makes sense if Gamone were to be hit by freezing temperatures or a snow blizzard.) But I won't squabble about the impressions of people who see me. Yes, I've become an aging birdman from the slopes of the Vercors. In fact, I had got around to thinking of myself essentially as a dogman. Maybe I'm both...

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