x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Proud to be a protector of birds

After birds decided to nest on the balcony, I decided I had to protect them from enemies.

There I was, sitting on my balcony, quietly absorbed in a book, when I suddenly got the distinct impression that I was being watched. And sure enough, I looked to my left and realised that perched on an empty plant pot (abandoned after last year's summer sun ravaged my basil), sat a sombre-eyed, completely motionless pigeon.

When the bird was still in the same spot the next morning, I decided to investigate further. By balancing precariously on the edge of my sofa and peering through the patio windows, I managed to deduce that she was in fact guarding precious bounty: two little white eggs.

Well, that was it. I took to monitoring their progress in the manner of David Attenborough observing meerkats in the wild. I watched as the bird called to her partner and they swapped positions, each of them patiently occupying their post for hours on end. I instructed my flatmate that unfortunately we wouldn't be able to hang washing out to dry on the balcony anymore, in case the sudden movement scared the birds away and suggested that perhaps we should refrain from playing loud music when the patio doors were open. I admit it was hard to take when the birds snubbed my first attempt at friendship, by ignoring the bowl of water and pieces of bread that I left out for them, but I carried on regardless.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, until a few days later I heard an almighty squawk. Heart pounding, I tore into the living room to see that the little family were under siege. Father pigeon was engaged in battle with a couple of larger, malevolent-looking birds, while the mother cowed in the corner, desperately puffing out her chest in an attempt to conceal the eggs. Now survival of the fittest may well be one of the laws of nature, but I'm afraid I couldn't help but get involved and ended up shooing the dastardly predators away with a broom. I think everyone (myself included) was a little bit terrified by this turn of events and all the birds scarpered quick smart, but a few minutes later mother and father pigeon crept back on to the balcony and resumed their vigil.

After this I decided that having intervened once, I might as well go the whole hog. So I set about erecting a little fortress around the nest, to help protect them from further attacks. At this point, a couple of visiting friends began to look at me as if I was ever so slightly unhinged and to be fair, I can't say that the birds were any more impressed.

As I prepared to leave the UAE for a week, I couldn't help but worry about the plight of the pigeons and their unborn offspring. When I returned to the flat it was with some trepidation that I made my way out on to the balcony. And the eggs were gone. But in their place, I'm pleased to report, were two little birds, huddled together in their plant-pot home. Now they may well be the scrawniest, most unattractive animals I've ever seen, but I don't care. I'm rather proud of them.