Release has obviously always been the plan. I may sound like a bad bird-parent but release would mean having my sitting room back, a clean sitting room where I would be able to sit and knit or work on the computer without dodging poop and being pecked at (and that would also mean that you would get to see more photos). Release from the constant focus and commitment of being a bird-parent. I have a lot of respect for you child-parents who are signed up for at least eighteen years of this. (Although, hopefully your babies will master the art of bowel control one day).
Release is about letting go, the moving on from a particular episode. Do you know what? I don’t think that there will be release after all. Manky will always be with us, in our hearts and in our memories. And I am not the kind of parent who doesn’t worry. I worry. A lot.
Even when (and it’s looking more like a when rather than an if) Manky goes, I will worry for her (or he/it). I’m that kind of person. It’s why release is not an overly joyous occasion. It might be the mark of success that she goes free but what happens after that? Survival is a different matter. And not an easy one. And this Manky-bird of ours has a track record. It’s not a good one. (I’ll tell you about some of her hairy escapades another day but you all already know that she’s something of a miraculous survivor anyway). No, release is bittersweet.
I suppose it’s an issue for all parents, whether of children or of birds. How long can you protect them for? How long do you keep intervening to keep them safe? When Manky goes free, she could be caught by a cat within an hour. It isn’t a pleasant thought but it’s a reality. (Husband says it isn’t nature because cats aren’t natural, especially not the ones round here). Have we failed her if that happens?
But is it fair to keep a wee wild blue tit in a sitting room for the rest of her life? Is that fair or natural? (To any of us). No, there comes a time when even Manky-birds must face the world alone, to take their chances. However hard or harsh that may be.
We turned our balcony into an aviary last week with plastic mesh that’s usually used over plants to keep birds out. We also plugged up the hole to the drain pipe. (It’s best not to give Manky too many chances). It took two days to tempt and tease her out, we’d get her on to a shoulder, a hand or a head and slowly shuffle out of the door. We’d shuffle out with her on us but then she’d realise what the game was and dart back inside to safety, clinging to the curtain and looking out with big eyes at the world beyond. You would have thought that there was a force field in place where that door used to be. She’d fly towards the door of her own accord then ping back off the empty space. Crazy bird.
It’s obviously not curiosity that’s killing this bird.
But she got there, starting with swift darts out then back in to the safety of her sitting room then spending more and more time out there, investigating the tomato plants and peeling mastic off the window trims which are waiting to go back up. There’s a lot of things out there for a Manky-bird to peck.
Yesterday she was out and could hear the neighbours below talking so she started chatting to them like she does us then got frightfully indignant when they didn’t answer her. She also likes to sunbathe in a hanging flower-pot, wings spread out, belly in the dirt, soaking up the sun.
Her confidence has grown. We sometimes don’t shut the (inside) sitting room door fully because we know she likes to hear us and has never tried to get through the gap into the hall. (She’ll sit on the fish tank, staring through the gap and will us to come to her but no more). The other day husband was sitting in the bedroom (well, we have been relegated from the sitting room) when this bird suddenly darted through the door! He had a hard time persuading her to go back out the window on to the balcony. She wouldn’t let him catch her either (which kind of bodes well). This morning Manky rose with the dawn (she’s always been a bit of a layabout, I was up before her the other day) and was chirruping to the seagulls. She didn’t pay us any attention until we started getting up and having breakfast. Then she put in her own requests. We told her to wait, as we always do. Before we knew quite what had happened, a little blue tit had squeezed in through the gap in the barely open windows (it’s been a real scorcher) and was scowling at us from the curtain pole.
We put her food outside yesterday too. She still has a cube (well, actually these ones are bottle-shaped technically) of baby food daily. Beef stroganoff, her favourite, it’s the one with the highest protein count (and that isn’t brilliantly high, an adult macaroni cheese ready meal, worryingly, has more protein in) and it isn’t chicken. There’s something wrong about feeding chicken to a blue tit. Very wrong.
She likes her food and water high up. She doesn’t come down to ground anymore. It’s all good things.
Her little feet are perfectly made for perching and climbing, she can scale brick walls quite happily and has a funny little habit of hanging upside down on the washing line.
This afternoon we took down the net. Eventually she took a couple of flights out into the big wide world.
Manky’s free. Manky’s fledged.
- Blue Tit Babies (page)