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Yaffle habits

Green woodpeckers, his 'n' hers, on the lawn. In the foreground, Campanula pyramidalis, which has suddenly decided to be white after years of flowering blue

We are surrounded by yaffles. They swoop down onto the lawn and probe about for the ants that live there. And they meet with great success; our lawn is a haven for colonies of the things.

I played golf last evening and the familiar calling of these dashing green birds caused me to look up and see four of them leaping about in a dead oak, looking (if one squinted a bit or liberally dosed oneself with eye drops) like emerald capuchin monkeys in red hats.

I like these colourful birds, although they can appear a bit menacing, particularly the cock bird with his black mask. They are especially menacing to the nestlings of garden birds. They steal away with the young and hammer them to mince on a suitable post or branch before dining on them. It is a habit I am willing to forgive them, but not magpies, which are famed nest-raiders. I knock them over whenever possible.

It's odd how, in recent years, bird populations appear to be fluctuating. Three years ago, our bird feeders were beset by flocks of greenfinches. Now we see very few.

The population of both yaffles and magpies is ballooning steadily, however. If their numbers grow to sufficient levels that we have to start eating them, I wonder which wines would best accompany them. Vinho Verde for the woodpecker, no doubt, but magpies? Small beer is all the loathsome things deserve.

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