My family’s house has become a hotbed of bird activity in the winter (generous feeding does that), but now we’ve got several nests around the house (3-4 at last counting) and daily visitors on our lawn, especially after mowing. You can’t imagine the numbers that descent on the grass like clockwork in the morning and what a change that has brought to our garden. Bugs and worms – beware!
No leaf was left unturned in spring; believe me – if the first flock of birds didn’t inspect them, the next to come by certainly would. Ah, it was such fun to watch bossy little robins and blue tits throw leaves left and right. Kitchen windows overlooking the garden have their perks even when you’re on washing up duty.
There are the usual culprits: blue tits, robins (so cute!), sparrows of all sizes and colouring, loud redstarts, blackbirds, a few goldfinches, magpies and hooded crows. The last two like to comb through our compost regularly and even blackbirds were seen rummaging around there. Then there are also more shy visitors of the nearby orchard and forest: cuckoos, black caps (I’ve seen one for the first time in my life), some owls that you can hear at dusk and during the night, and a few birds of prey. Now you can even catch sight of a pheasant or two slowly strolling by, or a green woodpecker hammering away on our ancient cherry tree and apple tree.
But this year there are newcomers: nuthatches and collared doves, and one bird we’ve yet to identify since it is quite shy despite its considerable size. It’s got a very distinctive voice and large song repertoire. It’s not averse to repeating your calls, but come nearer and it’s off to safer ground. We’ve got no idea what it is, but it regularly comes to perch on the nearby oak.
So, while we’re delighted at the birds that have descended on our trees and bushes there are also a few drawbacks. Redstarts are back for the third consecutive year and seem to have figured out where the best nesting place is – the upper beams of our tall garage/storage. There is an opening in the woodwork where they can safely fly in and avoid the ‘more dangerous’ front side where the roof lowers down and where we come and go regularly. That means they fly over my mom’s car all the time and they don’t particularly care about where their droppings land. The ‘thank-you bombs’ as my father calls them are not appreciated, but my mom was quick to remind him it would be the younglings bombing his car soon enough. They do have their nest right over his car’s front window.
There are also two confirmed nests on an old apple tree – it has a number of holes, and two are occupied at the moment. Last year blue tits were the first there, this year it is nuthatches and one other bird we’re not entirely sure what to call yet. The nuthatches are a fun bunch – they pay close attention to everyone daring to come too close to their nest. I must have scarred them for life when I came with a ladder to saw off some dry branches. I was right at the holes since they are not that far up the tree, but the dry branches were driving me nuts and I had to do something to clean up the old tree. I was there with a ladder once again, this time on a different errand – returning a chick to the nest.
I have no idea how that one fell out of the nest. I was sitting on the terrace after lunch, nibbling on some biscuits and enjoying my coffee when I noticed a small bird under my magnolia tree. I thought nothing of it, but when my old tom cat went to inspect too and the bird did not fly off immediately, something was off. I jumped up and ran before the cat could get to the bird. Of course, he couldn’t do much damage since he lost almost all teeth from old age, but still. The tabby is as sharp as ever and a great hunter – one wrong sound and she would be out on the terrace in no time.
Imagine my surprise when I scooped up a small ball of under-developed feathers – definitely a nestling. It was a young nuthatch – the colouring was right, even though his feathers needed a day or two more before being flight-ready. He was quite content to sit in my hands, even started calling out for food (and managing to rouse the tabby). My sister went for the ladder quickly and the rescue mission was in full swing. He was such a small thing, so fragile – though far tougher if he had truly fallen out of his nest. I have no idea how he came to be at least three metres from his home. Silly bird – flying before your feathers have fully matured is just calling for trouble.
So I climbed up the ladder (me – a person scared of heights) and lifted the bird up to his nest – the small hole in the trunk of the tree. The crazy bird did not want to budge off my hand when I tried to carefully push him in. He almost went tumbling to the ground when he started to flap around and at one time landed on my chest. LOL He was quite happy clinging to my T-shirt, but I scooped him up carefully and tried again. I didn’t want to injure the confused little bird, so I was perhaps overly careful. In the end I managed to turn him in the right direction; a gentle push on his backside and he went sliding in. One nuthatch safe again. 😀
I was happy I managed to do so before he decided to poop on me. This was the second biggest fear I had during this little mission. I hope he’s safe and sound now. If he returns next year, I’ll be really happy.
So, have you ever saved a bird before?