Dear Readers, you might remember that I am just about to start an experiment for my Open University biology course, which requires my local birds to cooperate and to eat some sumptuous multicoloured doughballs that I’ve made, packed full of lard and bird-friendly peanut better and homemade mealworm flour. Well, the tray above is the result of my endeavours – this morning it was picked clean before the sun was even up. But who are the early risers? I haven’t yet actually caught them in the act, but a pair of magpies have been showing a great deal of interest in the garden, and tonight I heard both jackdaws and crows on the local rooftops. Collared doves and woodpigeons have also been popping down for a look. Sadly, the experiment is all about colour preference rather than the species of the bird that pops down, and as they now seem to clear the lot it seems that they don’t care one jot whether the dough is red or yellow.
However. On Monday morning, I looked out of the window to see that every single red dough ball had gone, leaving all the yellow ones. I had been very silly though, and had put all the red balls on one side of the bird table, and all the yellow ones on the other, so I suppose a bird could have methodically cleared away the ones nearest to him or her and then been disturbed. I have been careful since to provide equal numbers but all mixed up.
As you can see, at the end of a working day (today I have wrestled a £3.2m project to the ground just in time for final reporting) I am maybe not as meticulous about the size of the doughballs as I would normally be. I must perfect my dough-rolling for when the experiment actually starts, which will be on Sunday I think, now that someone is actually eating them. I hope to get some photos of the little darlings in the act very soon. But for now, let’s hope the weather isn’t too wet. Cleaning soggy doughballs off of the bird table is no one’s idea of fun.
Before realising the potential danger of mixing food colouring with the sugar water I put out for the garden birds, it seemed to me that they were more easily attracted to the red- rather than the yellow-coloured water. Now they know where to find it and happily home in on the colourless liquid. I am very interested in your experiment!