It’s the host’s eternal dilemma: you throw a party, and then worry nobody’s going to turn up. The trouble is, I do this every year ... and nobody ever does!
Well, that’s birds for you. The feathered kind, I mean. The RSPB has an annual Big Garden Birdwatch, when you spend an hour counting the numbers of different species of birds you see in your garden. So I stock the feeders, fill the water bowls ... and wait for the guests to arrive.
Peering through the binoculars, I see nothing. And not just because the windows need cleaning.
Wait, there’s a great tit on a feeder – we’re off! And another, and a third! Then there’s a blue tit, and a blackbird turns up. It’s rush hour, and we’re only eight minutes in!
Uh-oh, spoke too soon. While the blackbird scoffs away, everyone else clears off. But I get cocky now, and start to think of all the birds I usually see in the garden, and therefore confidently expect to count over the next 45 minutes.
Which is silly. Because now the blackbird’s gone, and the garden is empty. Normal Birdwatch behaviour has resumed!
Suddenly my mind is a whirr of avian exotica, as I see a flash of florescent green. Then I realise that neighbour’s children’s tennis balls also don’t count.
Something small darts into a tree, but before I can see it properly, it’s gone. Oh no! I don’t think “and maybe a sparrow” is the level of accuracy the RSPB wants. A flock of birds – starlings, probably – flies overhead, taunting me, because overhead isn’t any good, either.
Quickly I lower the binoculars when I think I see movement out of the corner of my eye near a neighbour’s window. I’m not a peeping Tom, honest – I’m just doing the Big Garden Birdwatch!
When I find my mind wandering to whether there’s any cake left, I realise things aren’t going well. Especially when you know full well that many of your regular visitors haven’t deigned to show their little feathered faces yet.
Wait – there’s a couple of great tits! But it’s the most you spot at one time, and I’ve already seen three, so they don’t even count. Come on, what’s wrong with this party? Not enough grub? Is the music rubbish? Or is it just me?!
The mental list of no-shows gets longer and longer. What, not even a collared dove or a woodpigeon? Talk about knowing who your friends are!
Oh look, now the blue tit’s back, but clearly he’s Billy No-Mates. Oh, the humiliation – my party only attracts the guests nobody else likes!
And finally, it’s all over. A princely total of just five birds. How useless is that?
Worse still – and I swear I’m not making this up, because it happens every single year – less than two minutes after my count finished, a robin, and two greenfinches arrive! Two new species! I only saw three in the whole of the last hour!
Upset? Who, me? Hey – it’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to!