A while back I noticed a distinct lack of small birds in my garden. My bird table used to be mobbed by flocks of blue tits and other miniscule feathered friends, but suddenly no more. At first I blamed my neighbour’s cat, but observing what few birdies were left fluttering around his fluffy, confused grey head Tweetie-pie style, I decided there must be another culprit.

Enter Mr (or Mrs, possibly, hard to tell) Magpie. This rasping, grasping creature was pinching all the food, chasing off anything and anyone, including some very fat squirrels, and probably eating their babies into the bargain.

My theory was that if I kept that nasty beaky savage fed, he/she would leave the other wildlife to flourish. So I started buying cheese rinds from the market. Not only are these irresistible to magpies, you can salvage some delicious titbits of top quality Cheddar to nibble yourself whilst chopping them into bird-friendly portions.

My plan worked a treat. There was no end to the amount of cheese that black and white fiend could knock back. I swear it was walking bandy legged across my lawn after one particularly greedy session. And the smaller birds were at last free to dine on the various seeds and fat balls designed for their more delicate appetites.

But now it’s gone horribly wrong. I shouldn’t have interfered with the course of nature. Not only have the squirrels discovered my cheesy offerings, so have two enormous crows and my magpie has been joined by no less than eight vicious mates. They sit there on the bare winter branches like so many musical notes and when the rinds go out, it’s the Dambusters March that comes to mind. It’s war on the lawn, life in the raw and actually a little bit scary in a Hitchcockian way.

The crows attack the squirrels, the squirrels go for the magpies, the magpies are set to kill each other, and even a robin was doing some lethal dive bombing. As for the cat, it just sits there looking puzzled, as if trying to remember what the folkloric significance of nine magpies is. One for danger, two for peace…

Well, pussy, I Googled it. Nine magpies means love is coming to call. Not in my garden it isn’t!

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