Thursday, 23 May 2013


Springtime! How I love to see the arrival of Spring. The long winter has passed and the skeletal branches of the trees are now clad in their new green leaves.

At the allotment there is apple blossom 

and the Heartsease Violas are in flower. 

In the garden fat peony blooms are about to burst open.

With trees and shrubs all around the birdlife is prolific and at 4am each morning a cacophony of bird song welcoming the dawn awakens me from my slumbers.

Unfortunately there are other ears that also hear these loud excited calls.

Magpies haunt the treetops and I watch helpless, as Thrushes and other birds squawk wretchedly and in vain when a Magpie seizes a young Thrush from the nest, flying off with the struggling fledgling in its claws.

This morning the cries of an agitated starling drew my attention and I caught sight of the large dark shape with a flash of white feather viciously attacking something smaller upon the rooftop. Grabbing a brush I lunged upward towards the roof and succeeded in scaring the Magpie. But not before he threw the little starling to the ground. Too young to be out of the nest and unable to cope with the attack and then the fall, this little Starling did not survive.

The Magpies have not been the only cause of my distress over the local birdlife. Since Lucie's arrival several years ago, the sound of birdsong in Spring sparks a note of fear in my heart.

Demurely looking as though butter would not melt in her mouth; 

Lucie harbours a wicked streak; one that cannot be vanquished by any means.

Her eyes take on a wild expression as she skulks deviously, eyeing up her prey as she watches the starlings feeding below the Sycamore tree. She selects her victim and remains motionless - crouched low to the ground, before inching forward, slinking silently without appearing to move a muscle and then in a flash.....


The starling did not stand a chance, and amidst the frenetic screaming from the other birds Lucie triumphantly carries off her prize - whose panic-stricken cries cease within minutes as the inevitable occurs.

The day I found the young sparrow, recently emerged from the nest and exhausted from his first flight,

I hastily incarcerated Lucie and stood guard over the little bird - willing him to stop his noisy squawks that alerted every feline ear within the vicinity to his presence. Happily my hours of standing over him were worthwhile and despite the meows of rage emanating from the imprisoned Lucie, the baby Sparrow regained enough strength to fly upwards to the tree tops.

Regardless of the bells hung from her collar to act as a warning, Lucie's hunting skills are honed to perfection. She knows I disapprove and that she will be scolded but her eyes look beseechingly at me as if attempting to convince me that she has no control over her weakness.

Through her attachment to me she lovingly presents me with the dismembered spoil as gifts and I despaired to find the feathered corpses frequently deposited upon my doorstep.

The Laburnum Tree

Worse was yet to come. At first I was thrilled when the blackbirds who sang their sweet evening song from the Laburnum tree, chose to build their nest in the Ivy outside the kitchen window. Every day I watched and when I finally heard a high-pitched tweeting I knew there was a chick in the nest.

But someone else knew there was a chick in the nest!

Each morning the hungry and demanding calls for food and more food by the baby blackbird awoke me, soon followed by the ominous thump of the cat flap closing as Lucie left to investigate at closer range.

I knew she was choosing a hiding place to spy upon the nest, yet I was helpless to prevent her. The busy parent birds kept clear of her, but as Lucie lay still beneath the Hydrangea, she surreptitiously watched them fly to and fro and it was clear that she was just biding her time.

The morning arrived when I heard the excited cheeps and saw to my consternation that today was the day the baby blackbird had chosen to stretch his wings and tentatively take his first few flutters. Perched on an ivy leaf close to the nest he rested; - his cheeping ceaseless as he naively announced his independence loudly and proudly to all.

There was no sign of Lucie!

After some time the fledgling plucked up the courage to venture a little further and with a lot of flapping he flew to the window ledge where I watched him closely. I felt attached to this little bird and fearful for his safety. If only I could take him somewhere safe as he built up his strength to fly. Time passed and whilst he stayed upon the windowsill - against my wishes I had to leave.

Still no sign of Lucie!

Upon my return several hours later I was greeted with a scene from a Hitchcock movie. 

I ducked as two raucously screeching black birds flew low over my head from a nearby Rowan tree.

Then I saw her........

Crouched low beside a plant pot, oblivious to all else was Lucie - intent upon terrorising something in the space between a few broken old pots and the fence.

Furiously I dragged her away; her thrashing and protesting transforming her from domestic docility to a spitting feral wild cat.     

With Lucie imprisoned indoors once more, I returned to the crime scene. The two blackbirds although still frantically squawking did not fly at me again; realising perhaps that I was not a threat. Then I found him. My little bird! Huddled petrified behind the pot was my little baby bird. Unlike this morning his enthusiastic anticipation for life outside of the nest had turned to a nightmare. To my horror I watched him make feeble attempts to hop as his right foot dragged limply behind him. Had he injured his foot himself or had he escaped from the clutches of Lucie? I needed to rescue him, but he was just out of reach. There was nothing I could do except drag more pots around him in an attempt to protect him. It was with a heavy heart that I went to bed that night.

Next morning at 4am there was no hungry cheeping from the nest. Instead what woke me was the sound of the cat flap closing and then a strange noise – a cross between a meow and a growl. Grrrrrrrrrreeeeooow. Lucie slunk into the bedroom. In the dim light I could distinguish a black shadowy form hanging from her mouth. Still grreeoooowling she leapt suddenly upon the bed dropping the lifeless bundle she carried onto my chest.

Words cannot really describe what happened next - the haste with which I leapt from the bed, flinging both Lucie and her offering from me. Nature had taken its cruel course. My baby blackbird suffered no more.

Cruel Cruel Nature!

I do not like to end with such a sad story, so I shall finish by telling you about the beautiful bull-finch that became trapped in the greenhouse at the allotment.

In his panic to be free he flew full tilt into the glass and fell backwards to the ground unconscious. I heard the sickening smack as he hit the glass and the quieter thud as his little body hit the ground.

Quickly, I gently covered him with my jumper, gathered him up and carried him outside where I lay him below the blackcurrant bushes. There was no hint of life and I waited to see if he would recover.

There was no sign of any movement.

After a while - still nothing!

Oh! How upsetting!

Another feathered casualty!

Despondently I carried on with my allotmenting, keeping a close eye out for any predators. After an hour or so I returned to the inert form of the little bullfinch who lay exactly as I had placed him. Maybe he had broken his neck? I leant closer to see if I could see any damage when suddenly - with a wonderful resurgence of life, he opened his eyes and in a flurry of feathers he took off.................................................

first to a nearby tree

then a flash of red and - gone!!!!!!!!!!!!

A life saved and a happy ending after all!



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