MY wife’s battle with the squirrel continues in the background but she has a new focus for her vitriol – a chattering of starlings.

That’s the official collective noun for starlings but I think it should be “an obsession of starlings” given the erratic way Mrs Barron is behaving.

Mister Squirrel has been driving her mad for months because of his determination to steal the contents of the bird feeders she’s lovingly arranged amongst the trees outside the dining room window.

Don’t get me wrong – the bushy-tailed little thief is still up to no good, but the starlings have at least temporarily overtaken him as public enemy number one. She sees them as an inferior breed of birds – the chattering classes – amongst the more refined woodpeckers, robins, tits, and goldfinches.

It’s breeding season, of course, so the starlings are out in force and they especially like my wife’s suet block. They flock round it, bullying all other birds out of the way, and making an almighty racket.

Just like she does with the squirrel, my wife flies out of the house, shouting at the starlings, waving her arms, and telling them not to come back. It really is a sight to behold but they don’t take a blind bit of notice. As soon as her back’s turned, they’re all over the suet block again. I’ve honestly seen her run outside seven times in an hour.

With desperation taking over, she has now adopted a bizarre new tactic. I looked out of the window the other day to see that the suet block had been wrapped in a thick plastic bag.

“That’ll stop ‘em,” she was muttering in a style not unlike Cruella De Vil.

Her logic is that the starlings will eventually get the message and not bother coming, so she’ll have broken their pattern of behaviour.

I honestly think she’s got it into her head that the starlings’ pack leader is going to issue an instruction: “Look lads, there’s no point calling at the house with that crazy woman and the suet block – let’s try somewhere else.”

Well, can I respectfully suggest there are a couple of flaws in her thinking: (1) There are lots of other starlings who won’t have heard about the plastic bag (2) If the starlings can’t get to the suet block, neither can any of the other birds.

I watched a lovely little great tit approach the suet block the other day and I swear it was wearing a frown of frustration as it tried to work out why its beak was bouncing off every time it tried to peck off a bit of suet.

It’s the equivalent of me being really peckish, and someone putting a plate of fish and chips, complete with mushy peas, inside a reinforced glass case and saying: “Looks lovely, doesn’t it?

It’s a matter of time before the squirrel rips off the plastic bag anyway – and then we’ll be back to square one.

Give me strength.


OUR little grand-daughter, Chloe, has been learning the names of the flowers in the garden, including forget-me-nots.

Now, whenever she’s outside, she keeps shouting: “Look, Daddy – spaghetti knots!”

CHLOE is two-and-a-half now and the other day she folded her arms, stamped her foot and declared: “It’s not fair!” And so it begins.