I brought a bird feeder back from the UK. Random, I know, but I figured that with a 4th floor balcony the chances were we could entice some wildlife over with a bit of avian nosh. Finding said avian nosh not the easiest thing in the world though - or at least not in Madrid.
Having failed to actually find bags of just plain, unsalted peanuts, or any of those bizarre fat ball things, I eventually bought a huge bag of unshelled cacahuetes in the supermarket. Back at the flat, I set to work on the balcony with my bag of nuts and 3 bowls - one for unshelled nuts, one for the shells and one for the resulting peanuts. After half an hour, I had a sad little pile of nuts, the balcony was covered in little bits of shell (as was I) and my fingers were red and sore. I'm sure there's some trick to shelling these bloody things, probably a trick that a 90-year-old from the country could teach me, but I was stuck with sort of squashing them a bit to try to make the seam split, then pulling them apart.
Still, the result appears to have been a success. The nuts went in the bird feeder (along with a small amount of Eve's breakfast cereal for a bit of variety), the feeder was hung off the balcony and we waited. Very slowly, it appears that the local sparrows and those other little black and brown things I've never known the name for (some kind of chaffinch?) are working it out. I've spotted a few hovering around, and the level of nuts has gone down.
Mind you, they may be too busy getting busy to worry about food, if you know what I mean. The other morning, 2 of them landed on the railings of the balcony, one in full flirt mode - wings and tail feathers splayed, head bobbing, hopping about furiously. The other followed her (I'm guessing) around for a while, until in a blur of flapping wings and rustling feathers, I'm pretty sure I witnessed sparrow sex! No post-coital hanging about for these guys though - once it was over, they were off - the apparently satisfied female heading across to the building opposite and disappearing through a tiny hole under the eaves. I'll be keeping an eye on that for the next few weeks in the hopes of spotting signs of new life.
The bird feeder did remind me of a lovely story about my granddad. A good few years ago, he and my grandmother at long last moved out of their 6th floor flat in central London, to a bungalow in Kent. They worked hard on the garden - rosebushes, a pergola, pots of pretty flowers - and a bird table. Initially, just your average wooden, DIY bird feeder from B&Q. However, that wasn't good enough for the birds in their garden. My granddad worked hard on that table - he felted the roof so the little guys and their food stayed dry, he covered the main part of the tabletop with little mosaic tiles (grout and all, I believe) but best of all, he refused to feed them anything but Marks and Spencer Deluxe Muesli. Spoilt or what?! Even after he lived there on his own, and the garden wasn't really being looked after, he had a few practically pet birds - a pair of blackbirds mostly - who were so tame they would hop through the back door into the kitchen and be fed M&S Premium Mature Cheddar from his hand! Unfortunately, he's now gone into care, but I'm betting those birds are missing their sugar daddy!