Proceed, With Caution.
I’ve never seen such a volume and variety of fledgling birds coming to the bird feeders. It’s a joyous and engaging daily drama – and an expensive one.
There could be many reasons for their being so many, if, indeed there are; we are spending much more time watching and feeding them; it’s been an exceptionally warm spring (though of course, this may have worked to their detriment too) and our birds are relying more on gardens, as their natural food (‘weed’ seeds and insects) diminishes.
It’s a growing responsibility. A wire on the peanut feeder came loose and couldn’t be repaired: birds could pull whole nuts out and might feed them to chicks (potentially choking them). So I got out an old ‘cage-style’ peanut feeder – but then the great spotted woodpecker arrived with two freshly red-capped chicks – and couldn’t get to them. I ordered a new one. In the meantime, seven tiny, lemon yellow blue tits took up a permanent position on the inside of the peanut cage. We watched it slowly rotate like a toddler’s roundabout. The parents stopped feeding them, just at the point when my supplies threatened to run out.
I was concerned, too, that the blue tits hadn’t much sense of fear; especially when I had to nudge one off with a finger, in order to refill it.
They were joined by greenfinch, great tit and sparrow chicks, two very sweet coal tit chicks, a nuthatch fledgling (its dagger bill finally prompting a sense of danger from the blue tit sibling band). Queues formed in the roses that frame the window: wren, blackbird and song thrush chicks, and there was an eight-starling party in the birdbath.
I caught the moment another blue tit family fledged from a vertical ‘letterbox’ slot in a hazel tree along the lane, as they had done last year. At first, the chicks, jammed in one on top of the other, made me think of our rather cramped, lockdown home: and then, as they tumbled out, I felt an unexpected wave of emotion and concern. One bold chick flew down to the road and I had to flag down a tractor, Railway Children style, and help it to safety; others tumbled out and clung on to the ivy, trying to climb back in to the safety of the nest, which, moments ago, must have felt like a prison.
They seemed so vulnerable then.
Our eldest daughter has just turned 16. We moved here two days after she was born, trundling our things a handful of miles along the downs. I remember feeling disorientated and afraid of going out, with the shock of it. That feeling has returned a little. My son is off out in his car again, travelling further distances when, for the last twelve weeks, he’s been home, ‘safe’ under the same roof.
I thought we’d lost the blue tit tree in February’s long ago storms. And I feel hyper aware of all the wildlife homes lost with every indifferent strim, unconsidered hedge trim, or wholesale mowing or spraying; it makes me unsure of the ground I’m stood on.
And it’s a familiar sense of insecurity that floods me with anxiety at times. Of not owning anything much; least of all a home. There are sharp reminders every now and then, lest you get complacent, that you are not in control.
We must all begin to go, of course, back out into the world. To proceed with caution and a new gratitude.