Humour: Birds on the balcony

Now, the business of refilling basins has become a tiresome chore to be got through with gritted teeth.

My pet pigeons, adopted less by choice than chance, seem unaware of the biblical assurance that God takes care of ‘the birds of the air’. Instead of trusting their Heavenly Father, they rely on an earthly mother; a role in which I am manifestly miscast.

It all began one sweltering summer, a few years ago, when my phone was flooded with frantic forwards. ‘Save the birds,’ was the passionate plea, followed by the moving message that our feathered friends would perish without human intervention. Exhorted to provide clean water, I responded with readiness.

After inspecting some likely locations, my husband and I decided on our bedroom balcony. Peering through the mosquito mesh of our window, we would be able to watch our winged visitors, as they availed of our hospitality. Every morning, we could replenish supplies, steeped in the satisfaction that we were protecting poor passerines.

Committed to the cause, I went overboard. Not content with using earthenware, I bought two melamine containers. These I placed, some distance apart, on a raised stone slab supporting potted plants. Prettily patterned with pink roses, the bright white bowls stood out amid the tangled vegetation. Since greenery flourished, the overgrown area quickly became a happy hub for pigeons. They came in increasing numbers, seeking shade and shelter as much as water.

I recalled, as a kindly kindred spirit, the Bird Woman in the original Mary Poppins film. I pictured pigeons on and around me, as I graciously ministered to their needs. “Feed the birds,” I sang softly, preparing to quench their thirst. This iconic image I had of myself, as a latter-day Jane Darwell, has long since proved illusory.

No sooner do I emerge, jug in hand, than the pigeons panic. I call (even coo!) gently to my frightened flock, but they fly away fast and furiously. What is particularly annoying is that they return as soon as I depart and close the door that separates us.

Now, the business of refilling basins has become a tiresome chore to be got through with gritted teeth. If that appears an extreme reaction to bird-brained behaviour, let me explain.

Our pigeons not only use the balcony as their watering hole but also as their washroom. To get to where they gather to drink, I must cautiously cross a floor that, day after day, is disagreeably dotted with droppings.

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