This morning I stood at the kitchen sink rinsing out my water bottles, before heading out for the club run, when I noticed a couple of sparrows pecking around the lid of our green wheelie bin. Normally at this time of year they are trying to defeat the defences around my strawberry plants. So, I wondered, why has the bin got them so worked up?
Like most places we have numerous bins infrequently collected. We could probably cope with monthly collections of our black bin (inorganic, non-recyclable waste), once we’re out of the nappy phase that is. At the moment, by 2 weeks it is getting a bit ripe. Blue bin (recyclables) we just about cope with fortnightly. It doesn’t smell, but no matter how hard you try the volumes of junkmail and packaging passing through our doors never seem to lessen.
The green bin is for garden and kitchen waste. Most of this waste goes to the compost heap (rechristened compostarium, thanks Cbeebies). It is currently full though so the green bin has been called into action. It has been 10 days since the last collection and it is a quarter full with veg peelings, plate scraps and grass cuttings.
Anyway enough of our domestic waste arrangements, curiousity was aroused so I decided to go and deposit my banana skin and take a look around the bins.
Lifting the lid, I found the bin alive. A pale, writhing mass of maggots, hundreds in number, was crawling across the lid, up the sides of the bin and in one tight ball in a corner of grass cuttings. I have no idea what had attracted flies to lay their eggs there and my curiousity didn’t stretch so far as to find out. Evolution and culture have conditioned us to abhor the manifestations of decay, I wasn’t going to rebel against my instinct!
Still, I decided to leave the lid open and see what would happen.
Within minutes about a dozen house sparrows were gathered around the bin. Recognising the high protein treat on offer they were greedily filling themselves with beakfuls of maggots or carrying loads back to their young. Don’t worry, I’m not taking inspiration; I’ve no intention to start experimenting with maggots for post-ride recovery protein.
15 minutes later I closed the lid. The maggots were still there but their numbers were greatly diminished; the lid and sides of the bin had been pecked clean. For once my relationship with the sparrows had proven beneficial for us both. Ignoring my strawberries, they had helped rid me of some unwelcome bin residents and started their day with a nutritious breakfast! And, just perhaps, fortnightly bin collections are helping to reverse the recent massive decline in the UK’s House Sparrow population.