Revenge of the birds exposes the softie I have become

It is very clear that as I get older, I am becoming softer and softer. Now I am as harmless as a newborn puppy and as kind as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It seems I can't even hurt a fly anymore.

You see, during my youth I was a remarkable marksman with a catapult or skietrekker, as we called it. While looking after my uncle's cattle, goats and sheep in rural Limpopo, birds would come tumbling out of trees as a result of my marksmanship. Nestling doves and the like would be hit smack on the head as they sat on their eggs and I would have my protein right there. Others would be trapped using a gum fashioned from products of certain trees. The gum would stick their feathers together so that they could not fly and they would be easy pickings.

It seems now that I am in my adult life, the shoe is on the other foot. It is the birds that are giving me a hard time and I feel helpless to do anything about it.

I have fruit trees and a vegetable garden in the yard and the birds are literally terrorising me. They devour everything, leaving me frustrated and working overtime just to keep up with them. In my youth, that would have been unthinkable. I would have eaten a whole lot of them by now.

In the yard I have mango, peach, apricot, naartjie, granadilla and pomegranate trees. We have not enjoyed any of them in the last few years. In some cases, the birds peck and swallow the little fruits just as they develop from the flowering stage.

The fruit that survive this stage are pecked the moment they show signs of ripening. The flying rascals would peck one fruit and then go to another, leaving a lot of "wounded" fruit on the trees.

Some fruit fall to the ground as they are being attacked and the little "terrorists" just leave them there.

So, I end up with lots of "wounded" fruit on the ground that are useless to me.

The birds are particularly fond of seedlings of spinach, beetroot and lettuce. They devour these to nothingness in no time. Tomatoes are their other favourite item on the menu. Some of the birds now attack red pepper, which they used not to in the past.

The thing is, birds wake up much earlier than us to attack our gardens while we are still yawning and shaking off sleep. And the number of species of birds visiting my yard has increased in the past few years, which has left me wondering if this is a result of a change in our environment. And different birds have different tastes and styles of destruction.

In frustration, we stopped the planting of vegetables for a while. Recently, I bought nets to cover my vegetable garden and oh! ... occasionally some bugger finds a way to creep underneath. The amazing thing is that I lift the nets to allow the trapped rascals to escape. Yes, me, helping my tormentors to escape, scot-free! I have really gone soft beyond belief.

Some birds build nests in the various trees in the yard and they are fierce little defenders of their chicks. I had an encounter with one parenting pair recently.

Their three hapless chicks were on the ground, apparently after being coaxed out of their nest by their doting parents to start life out of the nest. As I approached the chicks, their parents were making a hell of a noise, threateningly flying over my head like fighter jets bombing a military target. It was intimidation at its best, in my own yard, nogal.

I had the chance to eliminate those hapless chicks before they grew to cause me heartache. But I let them live. It is crystal clear, I have changed. I am now a softie and a walkover.

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