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My Place: MY LIFE.

Byline: TONY HENDERSON

IF ever confirmation was needed that feeding the birds is now a multi-million pound business, it can be found at my local cheapo supermarket.

It has created a dedicated section for fat balls, suet pellets with added insects, suet block "treats" with fruit, any amount of peanuts and dried mealworms.

This, of course, begs the question as to whether birds understand the concept of a treat.

You can also buy a bewildering array of bird seed mixes, some of which look so exotic that you start to feel peckish yourself.

When you start to feed the birds, you soon have a pecking order of favourites. Starlings are hard to warm to.

They descend mob-handed and like an army of miniature pneumatic drills they clean up in seconds.

Meanwhile, dozy blackbirds gawp about, take half an hour to turn around, and chase each other while the starling gang get the grub.

Magpies, hugely intelligent birds who like thousands of others in the North East are cursed to support The Toon for a lifetime, are the villains of the piece with their predilection for hoovering up the contents of other birds' nests.

And there is always the chance to see the unexpected. Last Sunday I saw a light yellow specimen with bright red beak which I later identified as a peachy love bird.

My mate Sid told me why they were called love birds, but I considered this to be a physical impossibility and unrepeatable in a family newspaper.

Next in line to the bird feeding boom is the bird box industry. I have blue tits nesting in the garden and at the allotment, which has a box made in Durham Prison, a fact advertised in a little panel that says "Restorative Justice."

The allotment site is visited on a regular basis by "heid-the-balls" - a vernacular term applied to individuals who do not lead a sober life, or contribute to society.

One of the lads has a radio in his shed so ancient that the heid-the-balls declined to pinch it, but took the batteries instead.

But they leave my shed alone because, I believe, the Restorative Justice box acts like garlic does with vampires.

Anyway, the Dawn Chorus is already starting to clock on, led by the herring gulls.

These gulls have evolved to thrive on left-over pizza and kebabs, with chips an added bonus.

Beats cold suet blocks any day.

Graeme Whitfield is on holiday
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 21, 2009
Words:407
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