There have been white doves at my parents’ house for as long as they’ve lived there. The dovecote stands in the shadow of a walnut tree that was planted at the same time that the dovecote was erected, but which now towers above it.

Doves add interest to any garden, particularly when they’re displaying-clapping their wings as they soar heavenwards before sinking gracefully like a ballerina with wings outstretched. The population, despite breeding in most months of the year, has been fairly constant thanks to the occasional predation from cats and sparrowhawks. Until now.

It’s hard not to have a soft spot for cheeky jackdaws, but when they started systematically inspecting each of the dovecote’s nests and robbing any eggs they found, my father mumbled some oaths in their direction. When they began nesting in the dovecote itself, beside the doves-a sort of hotel room with food and minibar provided-it was the last straw for the old naval warrior.

He’s now defending his doves with an air rifle set up beside the toaster in the kitchen. The jackdaws, among the most intelligent of all birds, have been quick to move house.

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