Plagued by an overly-industrious carrion crow

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Where have all the butterflies gone? Despite the recent warm and sunny weather and the abundance of flowers in garden and countryside, there seems to be a dearth of our fluttering friends, with one notable exception.

My brassicas are still caterpillar free, with little signs of the dreaded “whites” invasion, and the flowers are busy only with bees.

The notable exception I referred to earlier was encountered last week, during a particularly warm spell, in the back garden. I was walking past the rockery when I noticed a tiny fluttering insect feeding on a clump of thyme. I thought it was a moth at first, and then on closer examination discovered it was a small butterfly.

It was patterned underneath like a blue butterfly, but the upper sides of the wings were brown with lines of orange spots and a distinct white spot on each of the forewings.

It was a Northern Brown Argus and miles away from its normal upland habitat.

I reported it to my local butterfly expert who told me that it was probably carried there on recent strong winds and that “it may be that this phenomenon helps keep genetic diversity in the sometimes very small breeding populations”.

Still in the back garden, I don’t know about other readers, but the local jackdaw and carrion crow population have been giving me grief at the peanut feeders.

I know they have young beaks to feed as well at the moment, but it’s been a constant battle of wills.

It started with the carrion crow lifting the feeder from its hook, allowing it to crash to the ground, spilling its contents everywhere.

The waiting jackdaws then moved in to mop up.

I tried tying the feeder to the hook with string, but the crows untied the knot and the same feeding frenzy ensued.

Next, I tried a clothes peg wedged between hook and feeder, but that proved even less of a deterrent.

Eventually I found a metal clasp from an old puppy lead in the shed, which looked like a possibility.

I took down the cup hook, attached the clasp, then closed the cup hook with pliers, before screwing it back into its original position.

After refilling the feeder, I attached it to the clasp and at the time of writing it is still there – result!

The crows still come back occasionally, but realise that the energy wasted trying to beat the new set up would be better spent elsewhere where the pickings are easier.

I would be interested to hear from other readers who have had similar problems and how they overcame them.

E-mail me at corbie@homecall.co.uk