By Bernie Bell
Some folk feed the birds all year round, some start to think about getting bird food of various kinds, as October approaches. Here on Orkney, we fill up the bird feeders with peanuts all year, and, come October, we also buy bags of seed and throw a few handfuls into the jungle at the side of the garden, for the different kinds of feeders. When they’ve finished gorging on the hips from the Rosa Rugosa, they can start on the grain. This means that we are visited by magnificent pheasants. We call the male pheasant Aubrey, as he’s so aristocratic – Aubers for short. I know, it will be different birds, over time, but….well, to us, the male pheasant is Aubers, the Short-eared Owl is Wol, Mr. Harrier is….and Mrs Harrier is…and the Kestrel is…Kes! Each year, the pheasants produce a family in the jungle – there were 4 young ones this year. In the summer they disperse, until the next autumn.
We used to live in Suffolk, where the climate was a lot warmer than here, and we only fed the birds in the winter months. Our neighbour was an old chap who liked to throw out seed for the birds, all year round. One year, John ( the neighbour) told me he had an unusual plant growing in his garden, and asked me to come round and see if I could identify it for him. I went round to his garden, and there was a magnificent dope plant! I asked if he threw seed in that area, and yes, he did. So, there must have been hemp seeds in the mix – add to that a very hot Suffolk summer, and………I told him what it was – and he said “What – that stuff that those dreadful dirty hippies had pot parties with?” He was a very old chap! I said yes – but they weren’t all necessarily dirty – or dreadful!
I didn’t see any harm in leaving it as it is an attractive plant, we were out in the countryside, and….who would prosecute an old man for an accidental felony?
But then his daughter arrived on the scene and insisted on cutting it down and burning it – burning the evidence. I told John not to stand too near the fire or, if he did, not to inhale!
A couple of years later, we had a little dope plant growing under one of our feeders too – our other neighbour dug it up, potted it up and put it in her green house! I didn’t ask any questions.
Isn’t life a hoot?
And here’s the evidence of John’s magnificent dope plant, complete with moon-gazing hare!
A salutary warning to watch out for what grows where you throw the bird-seed – though I think we’re probably safe in the Orkney climate!