I don’t know if you’ve ever slept in a tent before. Tents seem to be a bit like Marmite for dividing people, you either take to camping like a duck to water (and mud) or think it’s a slow, cold, dirty, torturous death. I like camping. But sleeping in a tent does a weird thing to sounds, have you ever noticed? Whilst everything has a slightly distant feel, like what happens to sound at an indoor swimming pool – warm, bubbly and faraway, it also sounds startlingly close too. It sounds like everyone is walking on your guy ropes when you’re on a site. We were staying in a back garden. At one point next door’s dog didn’t sound like he was playing with his chewy toy the right side of a very tall, thick hedge but right by our heads. Disconcerting.
Regardless of the temperature (it was colder, I swear, than when we had to go away in November last), the dark night at this time of year doesn’t set in until very late, keeping everything and everyone bright and alert. You also wake to bright light and optimistically believe it be sunshine. No, we’ve discovered that white cloud (ie a complete cloud-out) also has the same effect on radiance in a tent. Surreal. Anyway, at night, in a tent in garden in the middle of the countryside you will be treated to quite a concert.
- the screech of a charming lady-neighbour to her recalcitrant children
- the noise of her children, still up, playing
- the noise of a large dog playing
- the hoarse crow of a pheasant
- the rattle of the distant train
- the scream of a woman being done in, scratch that, it might just be the bark of a fox
- the calls of various birds most of which turn out to be one single blackbird who makes twenty different calls in under a minute (yes we counted)
- the shirring and cracking of tent fabric when the wind gets up
- the yap of a smaller dog in the opposite direction
- the crow of a cockerel (you’ll meet again at four o’clock the following morning, trust me)
Despite this cacophony, my husband didn’t feel the need to snore once. Ludicrous. Mind you, there was also the dulcet tones of me coughing and blowing my noise every five minutes. Or less.
It was a great nearly-a-week away but when we returned home to urbania, the wildlife just decided to follow.
We got home to discover a colony of indulgently fat silverfish in the bathroom. Oh, and a certain visitor by the kitchen sink. Brown, ugly and big. I haven’t been able to do the washing up all week because he just sits on the edge of the worktop staring you out and probably uttering coarse Anglo-Saxon epithets that he telepaths to you even if you can’t hear the words. If you advance, jar in hand, he retreats at breakneck speed into the gap where the worktop doesn’t meet the wall. Impossible to corner. Stalemate. The kitchen is virtually out of use because of one cursed arachnid.
My husband, despite phobic behaviour at times, firmly believes in ‘let live’. I don’t mind along as they’re caught and evicted as soon as. If not, then hoover may well be an option. (Although all arachnophobes know that spiders will survive and crawl back out to attack you as soon as you turn off the power, same as flushing them down the toilet but then they bite you in the proverbial). It got to such a point that I ended up saying that it was either it or me. My husband did that face. You know the one. I reminded him that I was the one paying the mortgage, the spider wasn’t.
Fortunately, yesterday, he cockily advanced his territory onto the draining board and he was snared under an upturned jar. Then promptly evicted.
I have my kitchen back!
We’ve also discovered that we have a newt living in our freshly dug pond. Goodness knows where he came from. And we have masonry bees burrowing into old screw holes on the balcony. I think at some point we’re going to have baby bees leaving the sites. The word that comes to my mind is ‘swarm’. Now husband is apiphobic, he does a beautiful dance, a cross between tribal rain and war dances, every time something goes ‘buzz’. Yet he insists that they’re doing no damage and should be let live. Hm.
We’re going to have to spend an awful lot of time up ladders come the autumn filling holes. I hope it won’t be too late by then! You don’t notice the wee random holes in your brickwork until they get evaded. And those holes aren’t the only problem.
Let me take you back a bit to March.
We don’t have songbirds in our garden so we were surprised to notice blue tits resting on the telephone/electricity line that goes past our kitchen window on the opposite side to the garden. We noticed them and wondered what they were up to. We saw them an awful lot more each day. And we noticed that they were flying from the line towards the building. Curiouser and curiouser.
I was waiting for a lift one day out the front and had one in my eye so I watched his progress. Were they just foraging for insects or something? He flew into the building through a small, round hole in our bathroom wall. Uh-oh.
Not content with that, the little varmit was chucking out all those polystyrene balls that count as insulation in cavity walls. What to do? Had they nested already? In which case, we couldn’t evict them. I know that the law in at least one European country is that you can’t evict a pregnant lady. I don’t know about a blue tit missus with eggs.
Husband said? Let live.
So let live we did.
When we returned from our nearly-a-week away, there was now a distinctive chirping coming from the soil pipe cavity, the lodgers had obviously hatched!
You see where they’ve got in isn’t just the bathroom wall, it’s a passage through to the cavity for soil/stack pipe for both flats, it runs from ground level all the way up into the loft. There’s precious little access especially as they have nested somewhere above our bathroom ceiling. Because of the state of our bathroom, there is a gaping hole (large enough to eat a small child) in this section which allows you to hear into downstairs’ bathroom ridiculously clearly (and probably they ours) and for things to fall down there and never be seen again. We can hear the birds very clearly. We cooed, so cute, baby birds.
But blue tits do not belong in stack pipes and their nest does not seem to have been the house built on the rocks or the house built of rocks by the little piggy, this is definitely something quite precarious. We know because we had a visitor.
Husband was in the bathroom when suddenly something small fell. The confluence of our waste pipes broke its fall and husband pulled it out. A baby bird.
Now as any half wit knows you leave baby birds well alone. That’s all well and good when the baby doesn’t end up in your bathroom. And you have zero access to the nest.
We phoned the rescue line and they said that it needed to be taken into care as soon as possible. The only problem was that an inspector couldn’t collect it for hours so could we take it a to a vet? We don’t have transport but they said it would be better for it to go for a twenty-minute walk than to wait hours. So we placed it in an empty bicarb of soda tub with some shredded paper and headed out.
I mentioned that when we were in a tent last week that it was cold. Absolutely freezing. It was like the middle of winter. To pack up the car on the morning we left, I had to wrap myself in fleece, coat, scarf, hat and gloves. By the time we drove the two hundred miles home, it was a different season. A very different season. It’s been absolutely scorching.
So it was in the baking heat that we set off to give this wee baby bird the best chance possible. As instructed by the rescue people.
We got there, I had phoned in advance too, steaming, and handed over the tub to the receptionist. And then the vet came out and had a huge go at us for handing in a baby bird when you should leave well alone. We looked at him. I calmly explained the back story and said that we done everything right and that the rescue people had told us to bring it there. He huffed off. We wrote down our details for the receptionist and walked out.
Mental health people don’t cope well with random people having a random go at them. They get very distressed when they’re told that they’re doing something wrong. Especially when they’re not.
To ease the situation and hopefully lower the tension and stress levels, I quickly proposed that we go round to the shop for an ice-cream.
We got home eventually. To another fallen baby.
It was too late to take it back to the very cheerful veterinary practice besides which, husband has lost all faith in them. He’s convinced that they just euthanise them. This baby was staying. He was christened Birdie and husband went all the way into town for baby food and a pipette (small turkey-baster thing in husband language) that evening.
Birdie didn’t much take to beef stroganoff and we put him into a cardboard box with shredded paper in overnight. He woke us at half past five demanding breakfast. He accepted soaked mealworms which the husband has for the garden birds.
Later in the morning, having all bird parental responsibility foisted upon me by husband having to go out, I was in the bathroom when I saw something. Something move. Another baby! This one, when it realised that I had seen him, hoisted himself up the tile trim and in through a very wee gap by the shower tray. Very nimble but I was not impressed. Husband was not going to be home until a lot later. I tried tempting him with worms but he wouldn’t have it. He and Biride were yelling at each from two rooms but he wouldn’t talk to me.
I sent a terse text message to the husband requesting that he came home as soon as he was done. Neither of us are particularly cut out to be parents, we struggle to look after ourselves. I also am not keen on animals. Feathered or furry. I just don’t ‘do’ them. Sorry! I especially don’t do dead, crunchy mealworms. I never go near them and I don’t even want to see them. Me being the only parent on duty meant that I was having to feed the things to a bird every hour. Not best pleased.
Eventually I noticed that the sound of the second bird had moved. I tracked him down. He was skittering all over the laminate floor by the kitchen door. Now what to do with him?! I had to catch a bird! As in hold it! Me!
I repeated my text message to my husband as soon as I got Feisty into the box.
By the evening, they were both taking mealworms happily from the tweezers and if you chirped at them (my husband the mimic does this very well, me not so well) they responded.
We also managed to get some baby food into them using my new syringe having blended the food with some extra milk. It was still a little too lumpy for the syringe. The mealworms don’t have enough calcium in them to be their sole food source and they need to keep hydrated too.
We also had a funny feeling that another one had fallen from the nest, we could hear cheeping from below our floor. Unfortunately there would be nothing that we could do to get it out. Very sad.
This morning our neighbour from downstairs knocked on the door and requested that my husband come and help her. I was curious, knowing that he’d be useless with a giant spider. She did look particularly anxious. No, it was the baby bird! He’d managed to make his way out of the cavity through a hole in her bathroom wall (she had been bemused by the amount of polystyrene that had been coming down recently) and into the hallway. She returned home and freaked. Fortunately her terrier had been shut up in the kitchen.
We retrieved the baby and brought it back up to our brood. He quickly realised that we meant food and hopped around on the sofa with his siblings for a bit. He had some mank all twisted around his foot and his feathers aren’t the neatest so we named him Manky. Hopefully he will settle in.
So yes, we’re now the proud parents of triplets!
The worrying thing is that blue tits can have up to sixteen babies. Uh-oh.