The Battle Is On: Between Me and The Birds

By | June 6, 2017

I am a bird lover, but I am also a balcony gardener in Paris, who has now found myself in a difficult position of me against  a few birds.  In any battle they say you must know your enemy and I confess that I don’t, at least not their devious ways!!

It all started last year, when I was first admiring a  few new clusters of grapes developing on my three year old grape vine.  My Muscat de Hamburg, a purple table grape had set these grapes for the first time since planting.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one with an admiring eye for all of my hard work.  I started noticing all of a sudden a shiny black bird with a brilliant orange peak flying  down and perching on the balcony railing.

Perched on his two stick legs he looked defiant in surveying my grape vine with his sharp yellow eyes, probably conjuring up fantasies of a grape orgy at my expense.

Paranoid after seeing him fly in for a second time, as my once green grapes were slowly turning a deep purple of ripeness,  I felt I had better protect my future harvest from being gobbled.

I have never even tried to grow grapes before, so knew nothing about camouflaging them from predators.  So, I scoured the net as to what to do.

I first wrapped them in those yellow and green fillet bags that lemon and limes come in, then settled on wrapping each plump cluster of grapes in black stockings, the ones with runs that keep clogging up my drawers.

Since he or “they” by now had already been nibbling on one cluster, I left that pitiful pecked over one as a distraction prop.

It seemed to work for the most part, as either the fine mesh of the stockings really camouflaged my grapes or at least kept curious beaks away.  The grapes in the end did not seem to mind the dark shading, as they were already plumped and turning purple, but how would I know?

At least I was able to enjoy my mere little harvest.  Yes indeed they were worth the trouble, being sweet with just the right amount acidity.

The grapes so far at this time of the year in Paris are nothing but a skeleton of what they will be when fattened up towards the end of August.

But now I have a new battle to face and the war front combat is imminent!

I was totally caught off guard this year, when monsieur black bird showed up again.

This time he was eying something else.   I have been growing two flower boxes of strawberries for several years undetected up until this little thief discovered me!

Now he has sadly discovered my very prized strawberries to free load.  Adding to my woes, is that the pigeons have discovered them, too!

Since I  have very little room to grow anything, I plant the very best variety that I can find.  In the French strawberry world,  it is without a doubt les Mara des Bois.

They are a cross between wild tiny fraises de bois and a gariguette, a lovely tasting French berry.  The resulting Mara des bois are  just exquisite tasting, full of the most intense strawberryness (new word) imaginable, tasting like a strawberry bon bon!

They command a hefty price to buy them, but so far have been easy to grow and productive up until facing my new feathered enemies trying to outwit me!

So my  bird enemies have good taste too, and are now in the process of trying to steal my berries 8 floors up!    My original reaction was to run out screaming, shooing them away.

Certainly they must think a mad woman lives there and rightfully so, who acts like a maniac to protect her few dangling berries from marauding thieves with feathers.

It’s late springtime in Paris, so I imagine there must be many other trees berries forming in the many parks that surround me, so why canvas my miniscule balcony garden?

They definitely are not starving right now, and I am sure there that the patches of greenery in front and back  must have all sort of delights from juicy worms to  whatever  constitutes a gourmet bird’s delight.

I   realise they are very evolved masters of the pursuit, having innate and very well honed instincts to survive.     I on the other hand have little to no experience in defending off these persistent and crafty thieves .

At this point it is the dwarf against the giants, or David against the goliaths.  I am the one who feels like a bird brain against the superior master bird brains of Paris.

The resounding question, is will I be out plucked or not?   In the past I never minded sharing the bounties of my previous garden  in Louisiana with the persistent tomatoes worms or resident birds, but this is different.

Real estate on my balcony is already expensive enough, and getting exposure to a decent amount of sun comes with a premium!  At this point my generosity has dwindled to being practically non-existent.

Perhaps I made a big mistake in feeling sorry for them this past winter, leaving some grains of rice out, which only a few pigeons took interest.

My brainstorm idea tonight was to lay the spout head of my  yellow coiled water hose atop the balcony railing near the ripening berries hoping they will think it is a giant yellow snake coiled to strike.

We will see how long that lasts!  I have a feeling my makeshift disguise will be quickly decoded by these master bird brains with their sharp prodding eyes seeing details a mile away!

I am thinking  that I will need another deterrent soon, maybe something like shiny metal fluctuating in the wind?

A large bird decoy would probably be caught in the wind and be blown away.  Should I should just throw in the towel and be sacrificial, letting them have whatever I have worked so hard to grow 8 floors up?

I have juicy lemons and kumquats that they totally snub, and of course they never bother my hot Budapest peppers.

I did plant this year some tomatitos de Jalapa, a wild native  cherry tomato from Jalapa , Mexico.  European gourmet gardeners gush over the flavour, so if it produces in our cooler summer weather, will that be their new upcoming fetish?

Anyway, my spying eyes are up early these days, thanks to living in the Northern European hemisphere, where the sun pops up around 5;46 with the summer solstice 2 weeks away.

Sunshine, quite deficient in the long dark winter months, is a sought after premium in Paris to the extent the availability of it helps determine apartment prices here.

The bottom line is that sunshine space is limited in Paris and though very tall buildings are outlawed in the better arrondissements of Paris, upper floor apartments are the most sought after for available sunshine.

I feel blessed anyway to have a balcony with a view and though stuffed with all sorts of flowers, herbs, citrus and some vegetables, it makes for a colourful landscape up against the clouds.

I refuse to have curtains even in my bedroom,  because I like to wake up  seeing my blooms the first thing in the morning.  Light, sunshine, beauty and colour are all healing.

I need all the light in the world now to help my grief disfigured neurons, still on the blink.  Light can’t take away the sadness of course, but it can help bring back some of my energy.

Since losing my son, the hierarchical nature of once seen pesky “problems” changes drastically and  in retrospect that certainly includes my new feathered challenges.

The best I can do, is harvest my strawberries  before my free loading birdies and leave the rest to them.   I don’t want to be on guard 24/24 and am leaving for the Normandy beaches soon, certainly to their delight!

After all, these bird brain battles are a losing cause. They are going to win anyway, right?

5 thoughts on “The Battle Is On: Between Me and The Birds

  1. David

    Hi Cherry,

    Well, they sell a type of netting that can be used to screen the plants from the birds. It isn’t dense enough to obscure your view (Like curtains would do) ; and there are several ways to install it around the perimeter to your balcony.

    1. Cherry Post author

      Thank you David for your net suggestion. If netting is used, would be around only the plants involved, and only after fruit is set, rather than the whole balcony. I love seeing the bees coming to pollinate which is essential and for the Hummingbirds to pass by to drink nectar from the pink and red flowers that they prefer!

  2. Isham Smith

    Cherry, judging by your photos you have developed Quite a green thumb and the birds obviously think that also .
    As a kid our family planted many kinds of fruits ,berries and veggies that the birds must have thought we were planting this for them . My dads thought on this was to plant more as the birds had to eat also but that just brought in more birds. My mother made 2ft of yarn or rope and tied a knot in the end and painted eyes and mouth on it , the birds though it was a snake,but we had to move it around often as the birds would figure it was not real. I have seen aluminum pie plates hanging in the garden ,but it just makes a garden look trashy .

    Bird netting might be your answer. ,just drap it over whatever the birds are trying to get.
    I have made friends with the birds by putting 5 bird feeder around my garden apparently they like that better and leave my garden alone.
    Do you have problems with snails as they would love your beautiful strawberries ?
    The photo of your Kumquat is very impressive! And I bet you have a delicious
    Dessert plans with it.
    Hugs to you

    1. Cherry Post author

      Isham, I loved hearing about how your parents handled their bird thieves, who I know are innocent as charged! Your mother went to a lot of trouble to tackle the problem, but your dad’s thoughts about the whole thing is precious!
      I think you own personal solution is just great! Feed those adorable little birds what they love best, hoping the grains win over my berries and grapes.
      I have not seen any snails, but yes there are ants, which is another problem not totally solved. Nature is so survival oriented, in that even in a suspended garden, feathered or crawlings creatures abound! Impressive I think!
      I mostly take a kumquat or two to snack on as I love the sweet sour flavour. I have used them in desserts and to garnish rare duck breasts with port sauce. Hugs to you too

  3. David

    Cherry, I have recently read that there are numerous natural things that will ward off ants and other types of insects. Ants supposedly do not like the smell of bay leaves and other natural ingredients. I don’t remember all of them off hand; but there are several. you might want to check out those “natural pesticides” on-line.

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