Published On: Sun, Jul 5th, 2020

Columnist Mindy Hammond has a busy week rescuing baby birds


Mindy rescues a baby crow

Mindy rescues a baby crow (Image: Susan Hellard)

You may recall we were visited by Canada geese Patsy and Eddie who, after a failed attempt at nest building and the theft by Mr Fox of their four eggs, managed to hatch three beautiful goslings in their second (and safer) nest on the island in the moat pond. We were careful to leave them undisturbed as we peeped around the corner of the turret to admire their adorable yellow babies one sunny morning, before Izzy and I crept away to the stables to muck out. 

The Canadian geese were clueless nest-builders

The Canadian geese were clueless nest-builders (Image: Susan Hellard)

An hour or so later, Richard phoned me, “I’m by the field gate and the geese are here. Should I open it? What do you think? I’m worried they’ll go through and the goslings will get stuck on the wrong side.”

“They’re probably taking them to the big pond – that’s what the mallards always do. I think you should open it for them. They can follow the path to the water.”

Izzy and I watched as Patsy and Eddie marched through with their babies in tow. When I drove to the muck heap shortly afterwards, both adult geese were by the edge of the pond but I couldn’t see the chicks. As I watched, Patsy stretched her neck and called. But no babies came.  

I abandoned the truck and with Sparrow by my side spent an hour and a half searching through knee-high grass for the goslings. I walked the hedge line, thinking their instinct would be to hide in the undergrowth, only to see a big black cat run out ahead of me. 

Oh dear…

Crows were circling above. If they spied a lone gosling, they’d swoop, but hopefully we would get there first. Every time Patsy called, I strained my ears to hear a reply, but the hedge was teeming with nests and the calls of hundreds of babies. The sun was beating down and it was getting close to lunchtime by the time I abandoned the search. When I told the girls they ran out, “We’ll find them.”

Richard and I ate lunch, had a cup of tea and waited. I put the girls’ food in the fridge, tidied up, put the washing on and finally set out to see where they were. As I glanced towards the moat pond, there was Izzy lying on her stomach, dangling precariously over the edge while Willow sat on her legs. They’d obviously given up on the goslings.

I tiptoed closer and noticed Willow had made a pouch of her T-shirt. Inside were four little black chicks. “Shh. We’re rescuing moorhens. One had already drowned. This guy was trapped in the overflow pipe and these two were drowning under the reeds. There’s two more in there. Their feet are all tangled up and Izzy’s trying to rescue them.”

“Where’s the mother?”

“She’s not here.” I looked down the lane, only to see what looked suspiciously like their parent, sadly no more.

Looking after our feathered friends takes work

Looking after our feathered friends takes work (Image: Susan Hellard)

While the girls continued their mission I set up the infrared lamp. We crushed insects and mealworms into paste and with the aid of a small syringe kept them going. But the chicks were very weak and a few days later, despite our best efforts, there was just one survivor. 

Fortunately, that morning there was a new moorhen on the pond. Izzy rushed to release the baby on to the water and, after 10 agonising minutes, he met up with the adult. Mummy moorhen accepted him, and the two safely moved to the big pond. Success.

But when Sparrow found an injured dove later that week the heat lamp was back in action. Willow bonded with “Kevin” and, although we suspected he was blind, he seemed to be recovering nicely until the morning Willow walked tearfully from his enclosure cradling his still form in her hands and our little graveyard had another plot.

At least the chickens were happy

At least the chickens were happy (Image: Susan Hellard)

Yesterday, Sparrow was on rescue duty again and found a fledgling crow. Yep, a crow. Not a pretty specimen and with his cruel eyes and vicious beak even Willow found him difficult to love. But had we left him unable to get into the air, something would have killed him in the night.

We fed him special rescue remedy for fledglings and Satan, as he was named, was soon full of vim and vigour. He wasn’t beautiful, but he ate well and having regained his strength (and voice), we launched him into the air a few days later. After a wobbly start, he flew up into a tree. Whoopee!

Patsy and Eddie flew away after their failed attempt at parenting and a pair of swans arrived on the pond. How incredible it will be if they stay with us. Please God, let them be good parents.



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