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Garden birds and poppies
Some of my earliest memories are of going to stay with my grandparents in Scotland. Every afternoon my grandfather would wander off to sit on a bench and feed the birds. He had a tin filled with peanuts in his waistcoat pocket, and robins and tits would come to his hand – and to ours if we stayed still enough.
After that I became a bit blasé on the subject: birds were just things that flew about and, in certain incarnations, tasted good.
Today we get quite excited by the birds that visit this garden, especially as when we first came here there was nothing at all except for some noisy starlings. Now we have generations of swallows in the barn, owls, hawks, two varieties of woodpecker, goldfinches and all sorts of garden bird.
Anyway, all over my garden there are seedheads of annual poppies. There are still some in flower but they are very late – usually because they have sown themselves somewhere a little shadier or generally less conducive to enthusiastic growth.
Left untroubled, the ripened and fading carcasses of the seedheads become flimsier and more decrepit. Eventually they collapse, dropping thousands of seeds all over the surrounding area.
We have collected thousands and thousands of seeds, some of which are awaiting redistribution and others which have been used in recipes such as poppy seed sourdough baguette.
But we are not the only ones making free with the poppies. If you look closely you notice that many of them are full of little holes, which make them look quite spooky and skull-like. They look like something Tim Burton might have dreamed up for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
The culprits are blue tits, who cling on to the stems and peck holes in the body of the seedhead. I always think that they must get an awful shock as their beaks flood with hundreds of little black seeds. Like sitting underneath a Smartie dispenser with your mouth open.
Still, I don’t begrudge them whatever they want. We have plenty to go around. It also means that they help distribute the poppies a bit further each year. All over the garden there are birds eating as much as they possibly can to put on a bit of extra weight for the winter.
Seems like a good way to spend the rather dead month of August. Pass the biscuits…
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