Release

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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.

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.

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Big and Little Personalities

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The other day I saw an article ‘on the news’ (we read our news online, not having a television) about how they (whoever that may be) have just proven that chimpanzees or some other primate have personalities.  Um, excuse me?!  It’s 2012 and you’ve just found that out?!  I may be a bear of very little brain but I kind of thought that was obvious.  Have you ever spent any time with an animal?  Have you ever spent any time with two animals of the same species?

I don’t know why we somehow find it comforting or reassuring or ego-pumping to declare ourselves far superior than our other planet companions.  I notice it a lot.  Animals don’t have feelings, animals can’t work things out, animals don’t have personalities.  It’s a load of tosh.  You don’t have to be an ‘animal person’ to observe that they do.

I’ve just given over a couple of weeks of my life to five baby birds.  Physically they look very similar, four of them especially.  Our little runt might have lagged behind in his development, appearance-wise too.  Within seconds of making their acquaintance, you got a feeling for their individuality.  They all had their preferences.  Birdie was food obsessed.  Rocky had always been so wary of us.  Sneaky loved to perch on the ceiling light.  Feisty loved the water.  And Manky, well Manky is Manky.

If that isn’t personality what is?

There are some species that do reproduce themselves almost by a cloning technique.  I only know of insects that do it, I may be wrong.  It’s a little hard to deduce whether an insect has personality.  They all seemed governed by an overriding military-style sense of instinct, duty and dedication.  But I wouldn’t rule it out.  I just don’t plan on getting to know any bugs particularly closely anytime soon.

There was a cockchafer on our (communal) stairs the other day.  There is a difference between a cockchafer and a cockroach, you can breathe again.  I only know it was a cockchafer because my husband declared it so, myself I identified it as ‘large, shiny, beetle-type, unusual, hm’.  And wondered why it was on my stairs.  I did say that I’m not a scientific type, didn’t I?

(I later discovered that the bug my husband was fancifully calling a cockchafer this year is the common maybug, those giant armour clad frenzied worshippers at lights at this time of year.  I had never seen one looking demure).

(That was a small, random aside.  I return to my subject now).

I found it fascinating to watch our brood (and I could dedicate an entire post to Manky’s unique personality), in fact all creatures much as I don’t declare myself to be an ‘animal person’.  It’s their antics that amuse us humans so much; we attribute easily our own emotions and personalities to them.  We see humour, mischief, cunning, and planning.  If we see it, is it real?

What do you think?

Bird Words

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This is a follow-up to yesterday’s wordless (mostly) post where I uploaded some of the photos of our baby blue tits from last week.

My mind has been on the weather, following the emerging news stories from Mid Wales especially and reports from the flooded out Springwatch team.  They talk of severe ‘summer’ storms but there was nothing summer about this one, even by this country’s standards.  I felt besieged within my home, the storm relentless and I could only think of four fledglings that had just gone their own way in the world.  Where does your responsibility end?  An equal chance to others of their species was all I legally had to promise them.  Can you take responsibility for them once they leave the nest?  Can you somehow change their choices, their decisions?  I don’t know.  I’ve asked myself those questions time and again.  It’s partly my mood and personality anyway.

We lost two.  We know that much.

But the other two?  We don’t know.  They could have roosted, made a sensible decision as to where to perch or hide.  Who knows.  There were quite a few sparrows darting in and out the rambling rose last week, I don’t think I’ve seen any back yet.  Where did they go?  Are they safe?  I don’t know.  I don’t know how this Nature thing works.  Baby birds don’t really come when you call them anyway, even puppies are more responsive but they have grown now and we only know their baby call.  We will keep our eyes peeled.

We are keeping our eyes peeled; husband rushed into the room the other day and grabbed something.  A little while later he wandered back in and I noticed that it was the binoculars that he had secured.  I asked him why he’d wanted those.  He mumbled something about having thought he’d seen something.  Something?  A something.  A blue tit something?  Maybe.  Was it?  No, just a leaf on a bush at a very long distance.  We call from the balcony too sometimes.  There are few birds out even now.

Last week we were starting to think that perhaps Manky would never be able to fly.  There was a lot of flapping but no take-off ever, maybe it just wasn’t going to be possible for him (we refer to them all as ‘he’ regardless).  We built him a ‘ladder’ to the curtain pole so he spend some time at the same level as the others, we had to help him perch then he made the ascent in clownish side steps.  But no, Manky has yet again overcome his odds.  He is flying.  A little clumsy at times, some messy landings but he is getting there.  He even landed upside down on the ‘ladder’ the other day.  I cheer him, going Good Boy Manky whenever possible.  He sometimes must think he’s a budgie because he trills and trills, most unlike his brothers’ calls.  He was yelling his head off on Saturday morning.  I went in and found him perched on the mirror frame.  I asked him if he was stuck.  He took offence and pretended to ignore me.  I told him to fly off he wanted to be somewhere else.  In the end, I lifted him off and let him fly from my hand.  It happened twice.  I’m sure that he was calling me.  Husband is cynical.  Sunday morning he was reaching great new heights, the tops of the bookcases.  Again, I heard him yelling for all he was worth.  I found him and told him he was a Good Boy then he fell silent.  It happened at least twice.  Husband is cynical.  Although he’s increasingly wary, he seems to be prepared to choose company when it suits.

This morning he took a plunge bath in the water bowl.  Sadly and poignantly proving the point that waterlogged feathers aren’t good for flying.  He went and sulked in the little cactus tree until he dried.

He’s self-feeding too, obsessed with melon and still rather too keen on baby food.  But he chased a worm out of the tub the other day and took it off.  It’s a good sign even if like me you don’t like talk of mealworms, especially not fresh mealworms if you get my meaning.

He’s not ready to go out yet though.  His development will be slow.  We may even have to wait upon this wretched Jet Stream.  Apparently, that’s what’s causing all these problems, it moved.  Husband says that he’s pretty sure that was the theme or cause of some recent end-of-the-world disaster movie.  Very encouraging.

It’s easy to think that once returned to Nature, as if Nature embraces them with open and welcoming arms, that an animal, a bird will be fine.  It is a very mouse eared approach to life, a life where Nature is a beautiful, meaningful Mother Figure who cares for all, a protectrice.  Real life Nature isn’t quite the same.  It is the fledglings that will be particularly hard hit, maybe those still in nests will be sheltered by well-built creations and their parents.  The adult birds will hopefully have both sense and good fortunate in choosing their roosts.  Maybe it’s the way a cruel Nature addresses the balance after a very mild winter.  I don’t know.

Manky is roosting too now, high up on the curtain pole at bedtime.  And of course, now that he is self-feeding, we don’t have to get up at five for feeds.  Ah, the joy.  My body no longer does mornings.

 

He also seems to believe that he is a woodpecker.  He pecks at things continually; the tap-tap-tap of his beak is the soundtrack of our day mixed with his choral renditions.  The curtains (for which he was told off), the very annoying piece of thread hanging off the curtains which is just out to get him (apparently) and the wheel of an ornamental campervan (that’s annoying, beak and metal echo combined, never mind the vandalism).  Plus anything else he fancies having a go at.  We’ve no idea why, he’s the only one who has done it constantly.  Beak cleaning is to be expected (and his preening skills are coming along although he looks so fluffy still, you’d mistake him for a duckling) but this is different.  Investigation?  How to drive humans up the wall when sharing the same room as them?  Who knows.

We still have Manky.

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Birds without Words

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Some photos from last week:

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Birdie – Blue

Feisty – Red

Manky – Yellow

Sneaky – Orange

Rocky – Green

And It All Ends in Tears

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I feel so guilty that I’ve struggled to write this update, it feels as if I’m admitting my criminal irresponsibility and negligence to the world.  And you know where to find me.  Did you know that it is a criminal offence to release either a hand reared or a casualty animal when it doesn’t have as equal a chance as it’s (naturally raised, non intervened) peers?  Puts quite an edge on it.

We checked the weather forecast before starting our release, rain but that’s nothing new in this country, and we had to balance it with the itching need of these fledglings to get out.  We’d had to shut the curtains to stop them crashing into the glass and they kept bonking their heads on the ceiling.  It was definitely their time for more space.  Rain is not unusual and even more unfortunately, it’s unlikely to go away completely.  That’s real freak weather conditions otherwise.  Besides, the door would remain open and food provided.  They could always shelter here too.  That’s more than other fledglings would have.

That’s what we told ourselves.  Maybe we were irresponsible, maybe we were inexperienced, maybe we were impatient, maybe we were stupid.  I don’t know.  Do birdy parents check the forecast before allowing their babies out of the nest?

Hindsight is a great thing to torture yourself with.

Wednesday evening we had all four back in then one went back out.  He didn’t come home to roost at bedtime so we had to hope that he had found a safe roost elsewhere.  It was dry at the time too.  And really, that’s kind of what you want them to do.

Thursday morning was still dry, overcast with a threat of rain.  The forecast said rain again.  I tell myself now that I should have read through the news, maybe there would have been an article about the weather already hitting the furthest point of the peninsula, two counties south.  I don’t know.  I tell myself that I should have done something different.  I tell myself that I should have kept the door shut that morning and not have let the other three fly free like they did.

The storm came in like I don’t what.  It was the kind of storm that would have taken you by surprise in October.  Three months on when the fledglings would have been bigger and stronger, more savvy too.  I can’t remember one like it.  Especially not in June.

To give you an idea of how bad it was and to torture myself a little more over my negligence, we have an enclosed balcony which keeps fairly dry.  To have the rain splash the bedroom window three feet inside, the wind has to be coming from a certain angle and be pretty hard.  It doesn’t happen much.  Yesterday the rain was lashing against the window and the balcony floor was awash.

We kept the door open, the rain driving into the sitting room, hoping against hope.

Maybe they found somewhere to roost.

But now the biggest threat to our babies is exposure.

I feel so terribly.  I took my eye off the ball, I lost focus.  I should have checked the news or the forecast better.  I should have done something, done something differently, anything.  Because it is my responsibility.

I failed our babies.

 

More Breaking News

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We think Rocky (unsurprisingly) and Birdie were the first out of the ‘nest’.  Birdie suddenly seemed to put a sprint on and overtake his more developed siblings this last week.

Sneaky has also flown now.

Yes, three of them are out!

They have flown out to the magnolia tree in a neighbour’s garden.  Funny enough, there seem to be both a male and female blue tit in that tree, we think it’s the parents.  They’re calling to each other, the babies and the former parents.

They literally just shot out of the door by turns, no warning.  One moment they were here, the next they were gone.

Feisty spent some time trying to egg Manky on, he didn’t have much success.

Finally one of the fledged babies came back up (we’re in a first floor flat) and sat a wee while on the washing line, calling.

Feisty went over to the curtain pole over the door, curious.  He finally hopped out onto the wall then spent a lot of time flying backwards and forwards on the balcony and sitting in my strawberry plant.  He flew eventually.

We can hear them outside and Manky is a little confused by what just happened.  We’re wondering how he’s going to deal with it, maybe he’ll pine or lose motivation.  With Manky, who knows.

This just in, three have flown back inside!

Not sure which three but it looks like they still feel like this is home after all.  We thought that was the last we’d seen of them.  Well, we were going for soft release anyway.  There’s food on the balcony and in here and the door is still open for them.

Sorry for crowding your inbox!

Breaking News

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I’m sorry to bombard you with posts, especially if you’ve very kindly subscribed to have my posts delivered directly to your inbox, but this is breaking news that I just had to share.  First though, I’m sorry that there’s no pictures but I’m a little behind with my processing but this is important.

One bird just flew out of our open door.

And then another.

Two down, two to go.  Plus Manky.

We have succeeded, two babies have fledged.  It makes your heart soar.

I will keep you posted.  And I’m very sorry for crowding your inbox.