Sunflowers or Sparrows?

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Now I love my sparrows. I religiously keep two bird feeders full of seed all year around, and in return I get constant visits from flocks of house sparrows. They perch on the trees and shrubs in no-mans-land chirping away, then they dart into my hedge to hide, then one or six at a time, make a dash for the feeder, chucking out anything they don’t fancy, to the ground where the wood pigeons and dunnocks later come and clear up. Shortly after the breeding season I’ve seen up to 40 sparrows at a time, but by this time of year there are quite a lot less – only about 8-15 I guess. They are very entertaining to watch, especially when they bring their little babies along. The handsome sparrowhawk that visited a while ago, may be one reasons the numbers have fallen!

Despite being common birds, sparrows need all the help they can get. Monitoring suggests a severe decline in the UK house sparrow population, recently estimated as dropping by 71 per cent between 1977 and 2008 with substantial declines in both rural and urban populations.

I love sunflowers too, which is why I tried to grow some, thinking that some giant ones in the new planter would cheer up the garden no end, and provide some bird seed later on. I started them off in the shed and mini greenhouse, but everytime I put them outside to harden off, they vanished. At first I blamed the slugs and snails, pesky things. I tried grit, egg shells, copper tape, WD40, beer traps… You name it I tried it and still the plant just disappeared, gnawed off from the ground up. Then I put them in plastic bottle cloches until they got too big, and still they suffered as soon as I had to take it off again. I planted one in the centre of the gravel garden surrounded by broken shells until one day from the window I spotted – a sparrow, (or two) spurning the bird seed feeder, and instead nibbling the little plants. I tried reasoning with them (one little plant now, or thousands of seeds later on the Summer.. but to no avail.)  I hope they tasted good!

One nil to my sweet sparrows

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