A Squat in April
And that’s because we only knew of our lodger’s presence when we noticed a leak above our bedroom window, right beneath the eaves of the roof. We knew we had a slipped tile towards the end of winter and tried to fix it as best as we could, but would most likely need to return to it in better weather. Liitle did we know that a starling couple, the female of which had been charmingly collecting twigs and moss for a nest in the garden in April, had decided that their des res would be our attic!
We didn’t find the little one at first, and so pushed the tile back into place. But the starling adults were squawking about the front of the house. Thinking something was up, we checked again and sure enough there it was, frozen in the beam of the flashlight. We made sure that the tile didn’t obstruct the parents, but then had the problem of the water coming in. Part of the leak was caused by the sopping wet insulation, so we moved that and created a waterproof, raincatching barrier. This worked well enough: we stayed dry, the little one fed until it fledged on May 11 and we were able to fix the tile. There was one egg left behind.
Rescue 911 in May
You would think after that experience we wouldn’t want any more responsibility, but my husband and some of his colleagues at work noticed this little wren and a few of its siblings being repeatedly kicked out of the nest by bigger chicks.
Two of its siblings died, which is why we ended up with this one. I was dispatched to the local fish and tackle shop for worms and my husband fashioned a little nestbox for it, with an old nest and some cotton wool. Things looked positive for a time. It was quite boisterous little thing and certainly let us know when it wanted to eat. My friend asked me about the ‘fecal sack’. “You mean the poo? It’s quite fastidious in presenting its little bum on the side of the nest and leaving its little gift.” We just cleaned it up. Only later on, watching Springwatch 2012, did we find there were other uses for it. In fact, the reluctant fledgling had a bit of a happy dance when it ate. We weren’t sure whether it was truly happy or if it simply had to poo as the two activities often occured in sequence. So, all looking pretty good. Until one day a few weeks back, I looked into its little nest and it was inert, not its usual noisy self. And, then it died. I knew we probably should have left it to the same fate as its siblings, but at least it had a good few days of comfort and food to itself. I mean have you seen those nests in Springwatch? If you are little, you are constantly living with a wing or a foot in your face.
Which brings us to Springwatch. Overall, we enjoy the show because it’s quite informative and provides ideas and help when it come to managing our own little biosphere. Last year, we got in the habit of taping it though, because the two male presenters were so unrelentingly annoying in that way that people are when they think they are funny but are not we like to fast forward through most of the talking bits. This is not just me being a grump. Alison Graham, who reviews TV programs for the TV/radio mag, Radio Times, here in the UK, calls them ‘that chortling threesome Chris Packham, Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games.'[Michaela being the third but not less annoying presenter]. This is Graham being kind, though. Last year, I felt like I was channeling her review of the presenters as they cavorted through the colder weather version (!?), Autumnwatch. The title of the review says it all, ‘Why does Autumnwatch have to be so infantile?’ I do feel, though, she didn’t do enough justice to the inanity of boys.
However, and I don’t know whether she would agree or not, they have calmed right down (or maybe grown up) for Springwatch 2012. The proof is in the fact that we rarely reach for the remote to fastforward through the non-jokes. There is still a bit of a sexist approach to the animal world (I mean, did we know Runty the Nuthatch was male?) which is rampant in these nature shows (as it is in the more serious literature). And if Michaela calls the female of any bird ‘dull’ one more time I might have to make her eat a fecal sack (there was a little bit too much of the pooping and the eating of the poop by the adults in the Blue Tit box for my, er, taste. Is that what my friend meant by asking me what we were doing with the poop?). I mean, who could possibly call Miss Thing our female chaffinch dull?
But generally, they are not too bad on the sexist language and focus on the male animals this time around. And, there is a little less of the nonjokes and boys outings, and more information which we have found to be quite helpful in a few instances.
Update: Just on RSPB site where some one on their discussion list has said how enjoyable the show is “now that they’ve calmed down a bit.” And the poster was not referring to the wild life. So, see, it’s not just because I’m an old cynic….
So What Do We Do with All These Worms?
For we did have quite a few left after the passing of our little Runty. I always thought that buying live worms for the birds was that step too far, for real bird watching nuts. So you know what’s coming next.
We started feeding the worms to Fuzz and the magpies on the day the little wren died (30th May). It took Fuzz a few days to acknowledge the new item on the menu, and then he was all over them. It’s almost as if he couldn’t believe his luck, because there was a lot of standing around the worms, coming up to the window of the conservatory with a wriggler in his mouth, as if to say “Are you sure about this?” He spent a lot of time feeding Madam le Fuzz, and looking as if he were heading off to the nest, with 3 or 4 in his beak. (that’s him, the orange blur on the left near the watering can).
But it’s not just the Fuzz man, half bird half fuzz, who is enjoying the wormy banquet. We are quite pleased that our investment in an RSPB nest box has paid off so quickly: we have a Great Twit couple, Ralph and Alice (as in Cramden, from the old US Tv series, The Honeymooners) nesting there and regularly bringing back worms for their little brood (wish I had one of those Springwatch birdcams).
It’s interesting to watch the birds with the live worms. It seems that they must subdue them first, kill them, and then flatten them before bringing them back to the nest. Right little sushi chefs.
Mrs Fuzzio has finally has finally been freed from her nest duties and is now hopping about the yard again. The Fuzzman, also freed from hectic fatherhood duties, has now returned to his bossy self warning off potential competitors and establishing his territory again. His eye has been off the ball for awhile because of fatherhood, but now he’s back with a vengeance, baby! Funny thing is that while he has got plumper, Madame F has retained her girlish figure. In fact, she’s quite bald on the underside, whereas Fuzz is, well, fuzzy. He’s rockin some kind of skirt look. You might like to know how IknowFuzz for Fuzz, the grown baby bouncing around the yard this summer. He has been pretty much a daily visitor, but more than that, he appeared one day with what we can only guess to be a scar under his eye. So, it’s almost like Phantom of the Opera, with one rather benign looking side view, the other definitely a bit ropy. I can’t imagine Mme le Fuzz is with him for his looks.
Interesting information about robins here: http://h2g2.com/dna/h2g2/A3474010; http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-european-robin.html
A Bit of DIY on the Side
Fuzz, Ralph, and Alice are remarkablly helpful with cleaning the guttering on the conservatory and the crevices around the garage and windows. I’m not sure how much of a meal they are getting from the small insects and spiders, but it is interesting to watch them flutter off the side of the house trying to get a purchase on the brick work.
It’s Like the Maternity Ward
The Blue Twits, quite the bullies of the bird table, engage in the same activity. They have not been as present the past week. I think they may be feeding their own family. The Long-Tailed Twits were all over the feeder a few weeks back, not so much now. But we do see them and a noisy little crew in the trees. Again, we think these are little fledglings.
Our dunnocks also have been engaging in collecting nest material. My husband thought he saw one make off with a worm, which might be a sign that the big event is imminent.
Finally, we think the Magpies abandoned the nest near the house after the crow or jackdaw attack. At first we thought they lost their young in the commotion. But this week we’ve noticed the Big Man and Stompy Woman with a very noisy, screechy companion, which they try to ignore but have to feed every once and a while to shut it up. I wonder if Springwatch is looking for another presenter…
Possibly interesting books reviewed by the NYT: ‘Gifts of the Crow’ and ‘Bird Sense’. However, my interest wanes a bit at a quote from the author of the second book, an academic, who obviously relates to his subject matter a little too much:
Dr. Birkhead also has some good stories to tell of work in the field, some of which, inevitably, involve bird sex. One effort to determine by observation in the wild whether the male buffalo weaver bird, which spends long stretches copulating, was experiencing orgasms led him to lament that “witnessing copulations was tough.” However, He acknowledges that in the end science cannot actually say what it’s like to be a bird. Not that they don;t give it a damn good try.
But it’s all good…isn’t it?