For many visitors, London and pigeons are synonymous, especially where Trafalgar Square is concerned. (I blame it on Mary Poppins). But for us locals, they can be a real problem, with pigeons and their droppings being a real nuisance (not to mention that they can carry a dizzying array of unpleasant diseases).
Even more of a nuisance is if pigeons decide to take over your balcony for a nesting site, as they did to us a few years ago. They decided that a spot behind the seat would make an ideal home, and they built a very neat (although rather narrow) nest. Under the Wildlife Act, it is an offence to disturb nesting birds (even pigeons), which effectively put the balcony off limits while they were laying eggs and raising their young.
So, we watched from the lounge window as they went to and fro and, having laid two eggs, they duly hatched, producing two grey, featherless chicks - looking like rather under-sized oven-ready birds. I must confess that we even got rather fond of them - a bit like having our very own Spring-watch. But this avian domestic bliss was not to last long: we are not quite sure if the culprits were seagulls or crows, but one day we returned to find a small scene of carnage: bits of the nest were strewn everywhere, as were bits of feathers, bits of chick and rather a lot of blood. Such is the cruel ebb and flow of nature, but it looked like a miniature version of the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre". To no-one's surprise, the parents were nowhere to be seen. And that was that.
Or so we thought: Despite the previous year's disaster, twelve months later, they started to visit the balcony again. We moved the furniture to discourage them actually nesting, but they still found a rather exposed spot on one edge. This time, it was the weather that did for the nest: after only a few weeks, it blew off in a gale, complete with unhatched eggs, landing in the garden below.
After that, you'd have thought they really would give up. But no, in early March, they came looking around again. But this year, not wanting another episode in this avian soap-opera (to say nothing of getting our balcony back), I decided to take some pre-emptive action and persuade them to look elsewhere for a nesting site. Enter 'Derek the Decoy Crow'.
My other half was - inevitably - suitably unimpressed by the suggestion. "You? Make a home-made Crow? Ha haa!". (Actually, it was more like gales of laughter).
Now, as you may surmise, I have some form here: previous attempts at craft projects have always ended in disaster, largely because I get fed up of the mirth engendered by my attempts at creativity. Famously, a papier-mache bowl, months in creation, ended up in the cardboard recycling after one-too-many sarcastic comments from my oh-so-supportive other half. (We artists are fragile souls...)
So, ignoring yet more comments, and courtesy of a newspaper, a few yards of sticky tape and some black paint, Derek the Decoy Crow came into the world. OK, he doesn't look much like a crow (even less so after the rain washed some of the paint off), and after getting wet is not quite the shape he was supposed to be. But he doesn't have to impress you or me, or even my other half. He just has to convince the pigeons sufficiently for them to go elsewhere.
And mock ye not. Derek has proved his worth. Since his installation, we have been completely pigeon-free. Even my other half is now impressed. Derek, for his part, is looking a little weather-worn, but so long as he lasts a few more weeks, the pigeons should have found another home in one of the many trees around here.
If that happens, I think Derek is going to become a regular Spring visitor to our balcony...