Bringing up baby

Guest blogger Conor Mark Jameson answers the cheerrp of nature…

If you find a fledgling bird, you should leave it alone. That’s probably the most important thing to remember from what I’m about to relate. And yes I know you probably know it already, and have done ever since you first developed an interest in birds.

I need to stress this point because each spring and summer the RSPB’s wildlife advisors field around 10,000 enquiries from people who have found – or, in many cases, ‘rescued’ – a ‘baby bird’. Picking it up is the ultimate act of misplaced kindness. We have to advise each caller to take their refugee back to where they found it, and hope that its parents are still around to resume parental duties. It’s either that or rear the bird yourself. This advice can seem uncaring, and people are sometimes surprised to discover that the RSPB’s mission doesn’t extend to the rearing of birds: baby, sick, injured or otherwise. They simply aren’t set up or equipped to do it.

I hope therefore it won’t be too confusing if I go on now to describe how I’ve found a baby bird, and I haven’t left it alone.

The evening atmosphere is heavy. More June rain is falling to earth silent and straight; down the necks of the banks of red campion and ox-eyes out front. From the moment I got home I was aware of sparrow chirping – it goes on all day, most days, and at this time of year the sparrows are present in boisterous numbers, wheeling between my front garden hedgerow and the field margins opposite.

Sparrow visiting Conor’s gutter

But this sounds like a youngster. More cheerrp than chirp. More insistent. More penetrating. I look several times in the airing cupboard, the bathroom, the loft, but each time I try to isolate the source of the sound it seems to come from another part of the house, to be accessed a different way. I even find myself going outside to check.

10 pm, and the cheerrps haven’t abated. They are louder, if anything. It is too late and too dusk for nestlings to still be begging for food, in normal circumstances. I know for sure then that something is amiss, and I work out, by pressing the base of the airing cupboard (which juts down through the kitchen ceiling) and feeling the tremors, that the plaintive must be in there.

So I go upstairs with a torch, and by now would  cheerfully remove masonry to find the thing. Luckily I only had to remove carpet, and one floorboard. There it is, ensconced among pipes and rafters, wriggling. And cheerping…

To be continued…

Conor will be tweeting live on Monday at 12 about his book Silent Spring Revisited. Tweet your questions to us @BB_Specialist.

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