It all started late last winter when heavy snow meant that we shelled out more on wild bird food than normal. Each day I cleared the garden table just outside my office and fairly buried it in mixed grain and nuts. Naturally it attracted all sorts of winged visitors from noisy, quarrelsome crows and splendid nuthatches to just about every kind of tit and, on one thrilling occasion, even the rare and tiny Firecrest.

It was during the lead up to Christmas week though that I noticed the regular appearance of a beautiful cock pheasant. It soon became apparent that out of everything on offer he always tucked into the peanuts first driving all the other birds away first. Overcome by greed he ate and ate until his crop was stuffed to bursting, at which point he would then stand tall and gulp frantically trying to shift the great bulge that had grown and grown in his neck. This caused a mixture of fear and guilt in our house.

We felt that if he died from choking or even a surfeit of nuts we would be indirectly be responsible.

“Can birds suffer from a nut allergy?” I pondered aloud.

“I shouldn’t think so, but he certainly knows you’re a soft touch. You should give him a name.”

It was true I had become a meal ticket, every morning when I walked into my office at 9am there would be the pheasant waiting impatiently for food. From the moment I bent down to undo the bolts on the glass door he started dancing from leg to leg with excitement. As the weeks went by he got more and more relaxed in my space and whenever I filled up the nut holder on the table he would jump down from a nearby bank and landing on the table start gobbling up any spilled nuts.

“You are very handsome and you certainly cut a dash but really you are a terrible scrounger.” I told him one day when bright sunlight made his feathers shimmer like spun gold. Henceforth he got his name – Burlington Bertie as he reminded me of the old music hall song.

Bertie soon learnt to come to call and eagerly ran down the garden for peanuts when he heard his name but the funniest thing was spotting him out in the fields for the wild bird he really was and shouting his name into the wind. He would run, hop and half fly towards me and then follow me back to the house.

He then developed a new trick which, if I wasn’t in my office where he could pester me by banging on the glass door, was jumping on the lounge windowsill and rapping rhythmically on the window. I’ve lost count of the number of times we thought it was someone knocking on the front door which we’d rush to answer only to find no one there.

Finally his curiosity and courage knew no bounds. Leaving the office door open one warm sunny morning I was completely amazed to watch Bertie stick his head in then gingerly tiptoe towards me eyeing his escape route at regular intervals. I didn’t move, in fact I hardly dared breathe until he drew himself up and with a great squawk swirled his magnificent round two or three times and then fixed me with dark unblinking eyes.

“OK Bertie.” I muttered under my breath and slowly reached for the large crinkly bag of peanuts I kept under my desk. He immediately darted out of the open door but then crept back and waited expectantly. I threw him a nut and then another and another. He swallowed them down without even looking up. Before long he had his usual bulging crop and my office floor was covered in peanut skins and a small damp offering from Bertie himself. After this he suddenly departed and set off briskly across the fields shaking his feathers and calling wildly to his mates.

Eventually with a great deal of patience I finally coaxed Bertie into eating from my hand which was the biggest thrill of all. Every morning I waited for him to knock on the glass door, or bang on the window, before letting him in to eat himself to bursting point. Eventually fully replete, he then strolled out of the office without a backward glance.

But now suddenly Bertie has disappeared; he no longer screeches loudly for restaurant service, he no longer chases off any smaller birds that dare to follow him to the office door and he no longer leaves my office carpet in a messy, unhygienic state. I can only guess that he has been got by a fox – one of the small unseen tragedies of country living!