I like watching the birds and take part in the annual RSPB Bird Watch every January. From the comfort of my chair in the lounge, I have a good view of the garden and for an hour make a note of the feathered visitors that come and go. I then enter my figures onto the RSPB website to be included in thousands of others. We get a fair variety including yellowhammers, robins, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, thrushes, wrens, green finches, chaffinches, goldfinches, sparrows, doves, pigeons, starlings, owls, even a woodpecker on a couple of occasions, and a duck! Obviously not all have been included in my report when I submitted it.
Blackbirds are members of the Thrush family and like our garden. We have at least two resident pairs and every year, see 3 or 4 broods of young, fluffy balls of feathers with stubby tails cheeping away on the lawn demanding food from the adults foraging in the grass and bushes for bugs, worms and ants. Blackbirds are dedicated and devoted parents. I never knew this until we moved here and I could watch them in the garden tending their young. It’s fascinating to watch.
This one particular day, there were 2 adults and two chicks in their favoured place (close to an ants nest) but a third chick was sitting alone on the back bank, watching. He cheeped several times but no-one came to feed him. In fact, the adults totally ignored him, so intent were they in feeding the other two as they fluttered their wings, opened their beaks and vocalised their hunger in no uncertain terms. Long after the family had flown off, the chick sat there completely by himself, apparently basking in the sunshine, but making no effort to eat.
Nature is wonderful. It is also cruel, and whilst I was anxious for the future of this young baby, I know it is wrong to interfere. For all I knew, its parents could be close by, or it was just tired from having flown a little too far from the nest. Eventually, he hopped away.
A couple of days later I was putting food out and replenishing the water bowls when I discovered an adult female blackbird dead under the bushes housing our birdtable. It hadn’t been mauled by a cat or been there long enough to start to decompose, so I have no idea how, when or why it died.
The next day, the family were back on the lawn, and this time the chicks were occasionally making their own efforts searching for food. The third chick was back on the bank, taking it all in, so I wondered whether the dead bird I’d found had been its mother. It certainly explained why it was alone, though I don’t know enough about blackbirds to understand if chicks are abandoned by the surviving adult should one parent die. I continued to watch anyway, and again, after the family flew away, the little one stayed.
I decided to put some extra food out on the bank itself in the hope that the chick would find it and eat. When I went outside, I noticed it had got caught between the wire mesh and the hedge and couldn’t find a way out. I managed to free it and put it up on the shed roof to fly away when ready.
A week or so went by and I didn’t see the chick at all, though the family were still constant visitors to the garden. The chicks were now way rounder than their sleek parents and just starting to get their tail feathers. I therefore thought it hadn’t survived, and sincerely hoped that I hadn’t done more harm than good by helping it that day.
Imagine my pleasure when we came home from our walk one day and there was a solitary chick on the lawn, exactly where the family usually gathered, scratching away and pecking at the dirt. He was very determined in his actions and when he started to extract a long, juicy worm from the ground, I wanted to applaud his efforts.
I would dearly love to believe that he was the lonely chick I’d originally seen on the bank intently watching the other birds feeding their young. Especially as on the opposite side of the garden were………… 2 adults and 2 younger birds.