Diary

The Bird Table

07 December 2013 | Diary

We live high up in one of Montreal’s tallest buildings, yet our balcony is a major social destination for sparrows. “The place to be” ★★★★ — What Roost.

How do sparrows get all the way up here? Probably some kind of flapping motion. I’m no ornithologist.

It’s all a bit sinister if you want the truth of it. I can only imagine they flock here in such numbers to watch my girlfriend undress.

I open the curtains each morning to four-and-twenty sets of peeping little eyes. I’m yet to see one blink, though I fancy I once saw a wink.

Still, I can’t help but admire their persistence to survive in our freezing, stinking city. Their diet of bagel crumbs, discarded prophylactics, and remaindered Expo 67 souvenir geodesic snow globes cannot be nutritious, yet they pull through.

I was suddenly overwhelmed by the desire to install a bird table on our balcony. As long as they visit us, I’ll lay on the hors d’oeuvres.

I pulled on my coat and hat, and with as much pomposity as I could muster, marched out to the shops to acquire a bird table and some seed.

It wasn’t until I was in the elevator that I realised I don’t have the first idea of where to get such things or even what they should cost. Twenty dollars? A million? It’s also true that bird tables went out of style with screen doors, cobblers, and toffee hammers.

But this was Montreal, dammit! A city foaming over with hipsters, or as they’re called here, les doofus analogues. Where there’s a store devoted to dead people’s eyeglasses from the 1930s, I could surely find some coiffured popinjay making a loss on bird tables, could I not?

I could not. After three hours trudging in the snow I found nothing of the sort. Pet shops, hardware stores, supermarkets. Nobody could help me.

“Do you sell bird tables?” I ask a cheerful clerk.

“A what?”

“A bird table? A table for birds? You set it up with some seed and watch the birds come to eat.”

“You mean a bird feeder?”

“Well, that’s a kind of hanging thing with nuts in it, no?”

You’re a kind of hanging thing with nuts in it.”

She had me there.

In the defeated trudge home, as is so often the case, I came to a realisation. A bird table was essentially a plank of wood. Is that what they don’t have in Canada? Ha!

I then remembered the wooden bar stool that’s been decomposing on our balcony for two years. There were also some unsalted sunflower seeds in our kitchen cupboard left over from a virtuous phase.

Why, that was everything I needed! Let this be a lesson to you all. Shopping is not the solution. Just use your own rotting bar stool and, as my incarcerated grandfather used to shout, it’s a rare problem that can’t be solved by throwing your own seed at it.

Curiously few sparrows have visited us since I laid on the grub. “Clichéd offerings from a naïve kitchen. A balcon to avoid.” ★★ — Modern Finch.

Only one sparrow has so far seen fit to grace our bird table. He pecked around most discerningly. Frankly, he had a rather regal air about him for someone who until recently ate off the floor. He kicked some seed about and flew away.

“Tell the others!” I plaintively called after him.

Once aloft, I imagined the sparrow communed with his fellows:

“You’ll never believe what I just saw. A bird table!”

“A what?”

“A bird table? A table for birds? The stupid mammals put seed on it and then sit around watching us eat it.”

“You mean a bird feeder?”

“Well, that’s a kind of hanging thing with nuts in it, no?”

You’re a kind of hanging thing with nuts in it.”

“You’ve got me there.”

“Humans. They’re ridiculous. Nice jugs on some of them, mind.”