Who knows whether climate change is responsible but consider this. I have a circa 50-acre garden amidst which my home I built 50 years ago sits. I also have about 200 fruit trees, this a great joy as each December we gorge on plums, then come the peaches, followed by apples and pears in the new year. The roughly 100 cherry trees’ output are dealt to by birds. Finally at summer’s end comes walnuts. Well this year no plums for the first time ever.
The apple and pear trees are bulging and as always, the Wellington clay-loving citrus trees have produced hundreds of oranges and grapefruit, these so sweet, if squeezed for juice they have to be watered down. So why no plums?
Here’s a possible explanation for there’s something else now missing and that’s the all important insects. Open a window in summer sees an invasion of flies. This year, sometimes just one, duly trapped and let go outside.
January is traditionally spent by the pool reading, playing tennis and then evening golf. When lying out there, at about 10 minute intervals we rise and rescue insects drawn to the pool’s shiny surface. An average January day might see 100 bumblebees, flies, midges and other insect species fished out on to the lawn to recover. Lighter insects can survive on the surface for up to a half-hour but weighty bumblebees quickly become waterlogged and are goners after 5 minutes, if not quickly saved.
We’ve been swimming for over 3 months now (the pool is heated) and in that time not a single insect has hit the pool. Literally not one. Nor are they visible in other normal locations. A visitor residing in Karori told me they’d observed the same thing there, that is no insects.
Insects play a vital part in plant fertilisation. Their absence will also affect spiders dependant on them for food, the spiders in turn providing sparrow food.
Normally we have 3 or 4 native pigeon pairs; this year just a single lonely one. The usually present fantails, thrushes and tuis are not to be seen. A few years ago we once walked off the tennis court to escape the racket from the then hundreds of tuis.
What we do have in lieu is at last count, 64 white doves coming from God knows where and costing me $300 a week to feed them. All of this emanates from one which turned up and made himself at home 4 years ago. After 6 months he disappeared and was much missed but a fortnight later was back with a mate. A week later they flew off for two days then returned with a third one and it’s gone from there. Currently one is sitting on a single egg in a hanging flower basket outside the front door.
The other change is a massive sparrow population, all grossly obese thanks to tucking in amongst the doves when fed on the front lawn.
A friend suggested we feed them less generously and the dove and sparrow numbers might abate. That’s one possibility but another could be being pecked to death as the doves have become very aggressive, lining up and beating on windows if we’re late for their 3 routine daily feeds when the task befalls us in weekends.
A final solution in every sense lies in the fact that white doves are a species of pigeon. Pigeon pie is common in Britain. They could keep us permanently supplied for poultry dishes.