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Spanish Secrets: The Tweeting Of Angry Birds

...But as sugar levels rise, my gorgeous grapes come to the attention of countryside fowl. A hungry squadron of magpies can lay waste to a small vineyard at one gluttonous breakfast sitting...

Craig Briggs is at war with uninvited feathered feeders.

Every year, at about this time, I long for the extraordinary talents of Hugh Lofting’s, Doctor Doolittle. If only I could chat with the birds. Mind you, it’s hardly likely; trying to learn Spanish is taxing enough; and even if I could, which tweet would I choose to learn?

After all, there are chaffinches that chatter and magpies that squawk, ducks that quack and woodpeckers that peck, owls hoot and doves coo and as if that isn’t complicated enough, how on earth would I deal with the strong silent types: the eagles, kites, herons and storks.

This fanciful idea stems from a desire to avoid an annual conflict. A little delicate diplomacy would surely provide a far more satisfactory outcome for both me, and my feathered friends. Perhaps I should explain.

As summer succumbs to autumn, we enter the final days of a season-long labour of love. It started at the beginning of March with the careful pruning of our cherished grapevines and will shortly end with the annual harvest. Hours of hard work; tending, weeding, thinning and spraying. Even Mother Nature lends a hand, providing a long hot summer to nurture their growth.

But as sugar levels rise, my gorgeous grapes come to the attention of countryside fowl. A hungry squadron of magpies can lay waste to a small vineyard at one gluttonous breakfast sitting. Thankfully, the little buntings and tiny tree sparrows give me the heads up: a few stripped stalks signal commencement of hostilities.

Initially, I go on the offensive with Goliath: an eight foot tall scarecrow. He’s dressed in an old, blue boiler-suit and bright-yellow high-viz jacket, and looks absolutely terrifying. Unfortunately, the black birds don’t share my sentiment. Within an hour of his appearance, they’re using his arms as a vantage point from which to choose the juiciest looking grapes.

My response is to rush out into the garden and clap my hands with all the force I can muster: the flock takes flight. No sooner is my back turned, than they return with reinforcements – the dreaded magpies.

Thankfully, magpies aren’t the brightest birds in the bunch. My appearance at the kitchen door is enough to scatter them into the air.

Goliath’s downfall initiates a new strategy – mirrors. I attach an unwanted collection of old CD’s and DVD’s to pieces of twine and hang them from the vines. The slightest breath of wind sends them spinning like tops. Caught in bright sunlight they create a terrifying stroboscope of light. Once again, not everyone thinks so.

A kaleidoscope of white light, bouncing off the lawn turns it into a scene from Saturday Night Fever. Disco dancing wagtails join the party, strutting their funky stuff. The only elements missing are a pounding base-beat and a few choruses of Staying Alive.

As if to rub salt in my wounds, I often catch a crested lark nestled among the vines, nibbling the grapes and preening his quiff in a CD caught in the leaves.

My sprints into the garden, slapping my hands together as hard and as fast as I can, become increasingly frequent: so frequent that by sundown they’re beginning to smart.

I wouldn’t mind if the damn things were starving, but they’re not. All summer long the automated sprinkler systems provides a daily breakfast of fresh worms, appetising ants and delicious bugs.

My last line of defence is reel after reel of foil tape: six centimetres wide and 50 metres long. I weave it through the vineyard like a child’s crayoned scribble.

Bring on the vendimia (grape harvest): The sooner, the better.


Craig has written a book, Journey To A Dream, a vivid and entertaining account of how he came to live in Spain.

It is available from Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/Journey-To-Dream-discovery-industrial/dp/1480254932/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374567185&sr=8-1&keywords=craig+briggs

Do visit Craig's Web site


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