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A bird in the hand...

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The Mole | 16:18 UK time, Thursday, 28 May 2009

Any of you who saw the first episode of Springwatch 2009 will remember Martin Hughes-Games asking you to send in information on the strangest nest sites you've seen. He then followed this up with an appeal on the web that attracted about six trillion replies, including the photo that was included in last night's show of a bird nesting in a car wash.

Not that I'm jealous of Martin Hughes-Games or anything but I reckon I've taken a picture that is better than all of those. Here is a picture of a blue tit chick nesting in the hand of The Mole:

Okay, okay, maybe it isn't strictly 'nesting' there but it is in my hand and it is a blue tit chick and people (probably experts) do say that 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush', so it's got to be pretty special one or another. Also, my picture has a tear-jearking story to go with it.

Yesterday evening, while everyone else was still beavering away, about twenty minutes before the live show was due to start, I wandered up the drive for a quick leg-stretch before sitting down to watch the recording with the rest of the crew.

But ten minutes later, just near Penthorpe's front gate, I heard a bird tweeting on the ground beside me. Looking down, I found a tiny blue tit chick just sitting there, unable to fly.

Loving animals, but not being a hardened naturalist, I wondered what to do? Should I leave it here to be eaten by stoats, foxes, and tyre-tread or should I take it back to the Springwatch team - perhaps the greatest team of animal-loving naturalists ever brought together in one place?

Needless to say I had visions of bursting into the live show and showing the presenters my wonderful find live on air. Kate would look at me adoringly and beg to hear about the time I once hand-raised an orphaned pigeon chick into adulthood with the help of a bowl of porridge and some scrambled egg. No doubt the rest of the show would then be canceled as they worked out how to make The Mole And The Chick a regular feature in the series.

Excited, I hurried back up the drive with the chick cupped in my hands, and headed towards the barn, the presenters, and impending glory.

And then I bumped into the resident bird expert who could hear a mysterious cheeping coming from my cupped hands, took one look at the little thing, and ruined my dreams.

"The best thing you can do," he said, "is take him back where you found him and hope that his parents bring him some food. You have to leave it to nature."

I tried explaining my plans for a series called The Mole Saves The Animal World (yes, it had become a series now) but the bird man wasn't buying it. When I mentioned scrambled eggs he turned me around and pointed back out the gate..

But you know, the closer I got to the verge where I found it, the more that little bird began to cheep. And even though it was heart-breaking to leave it (and my dreams of TV stardom) behind I like to think that it was communing with its parents as we approached.

Sure enough, an hour later, I drove home and passed the spot where I had left the chick. Since it was no longer there, I can only assume that its parents found it, pumped it full of food, fixed its dodgy wing with a home-made splint, and helped it fly to safety...


  • 1. At 9:04pm on 28 May 2009, popgibson wrote:

    I have been lucky enough to hear 2 cuckoo's this year
    First one where I live Elton, Peterborough 25.4.09
    and then one at Nassington, Peterborough 3.5.09 & 7.5.09

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  • 2. At 9:06pm on 28 May 2009, seacarolyn wrote:

    I heard my first and only cuckoo this year at 5am Tues 19th May in Halesworth, Suffolk.I have usually heard one at my home about 10 miles away, before this but doesn't seem to be one near my home this year.

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  • 3. At 9:07pm on 28 May 2009, Christine-Geoff wrote:

    We were out walking towards Oakhill Pond near Goole in Yorkshire on Monday 25th May & was fortunate enough to hear the call of the Cuckoo

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  • 4. At 9:08pm on 28 May 2009, 40woodbank wrote:

    I heard my cuckoo this year at the in Penn. Buckinghamshire on 5th.May

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  • 5. At 9:10pm on 28 May 2009, smilingjohnandmaggie wrote:

    Hi everybody, we heard the cuckoo at Blackslade down near Widecombe in the Moor Devon on 23rd and 24th May this year. Great show,good luck to Chris.

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  • 6. At 9:11pm on 28 May 2009, ladymaureenann wrote:

    You asked about the cuckoo call. I heard the cuckoo about three weeks ago and it called insistently for quite a few days and then must have flown away. I was walking in a little wood in Ardley, North Oxfordshire, and the call came from a bit further on within a nature reserve.

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  • 7. At 9:11pm on 28 May 2009, storklegs wrote:

    We heard the call of the cuckoo at the begining of May in Cowfold,lower Beeding near Horsham and have been lucky enougth to have heard it most evenings since.

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  • 8. At 9:13pm on 28 May 2009, JameyJameson wrote:

    Cuckoo heard on Friday 1st May at 10:45 at Fox Hill Helsby Cheshire (grid ref: 51.00:75.20 OS sheet 117 1986)

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  • 9. At 9:19pm on 28 May 2009, RobPowell wrote:

    I heard a cuckoo on the 14th of May at about noon in the woods behind Surprise View above the eastern shore of Derwentwater near Keswick in Cumbria. Five minutes later a Buzzard gave a short display near the top of the crag. Nice.

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  • 10. At 9:24pm on 28 May 2009, kingdukeofgloucester wrote:

    Regular Cuckoo calling at Hempsted Meadows in Gloucester since 21st May.Regular habitat for Woodcock and Little Egret also

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  • 11. At 9:37pm on 28 May 2009, Jakanne wrote:

    I heard my first cuckoo at the end of April on Kinver Edge, South Staffs. I have heard several calling in the same area throughout May, more than for the last four or five years.

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  • 12. At 11:05pm on 28 May 2009, SilebySue wrote:

    I heard a cuckoo on Monday 25th May at 9.30am at Cossington near Loughborough in Leicestershire

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  • 13. At 08:21am on 29 May 2009, dizzydiny wrote:

    I heard my first cuckoo(s) on 21 April. We'd been to Langdon wildlife reserve in Essex and heard one at about 4 pm on the far side of the reserve, we then stopped off at a (now neglected) reserve a few miles away, once featured by Bill Oddie on a tv programme but i can't remember the name! and heard another in the distance by the resevoirs.

    My first sighting was last Friday, 22 May at Knole Park in Kent. We saw one fly overhead and moments later heard it's call. Just brilliant.

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  • 14. At 08:22am on 29 May 2009, kerrnature wrote:

    We heard a cuckoo on Saturday, May 9th at 9.30am when we were staying at Ffarmers in Mid Wales.

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  • 15. At 08:39am on 29 May 2009, hum2739 wrote:


    I heard a cuckoo for the first time this year on 15th April during the early morning.

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  • 16. At 09:37am on 29 May 2009, beltanefox wrote:

    for the past 5 yr i have had a housemartins nest in my porch they are now sitting on eggs

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  • 17. At 1:22pm on 29 May 2009, chford10 wrote:

    Hi there. I had the good fortune to be up and awake Monday 3am and I heard a Cuckoo plainly and distinctively. I live in Suffolk and live near a railway line where all the trees are quite dense. It was a lovely sound and I know I wasnt dreaming.Spring has sprung at last.

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  • 18. At 2:54pm on 29 May 2009, corneliuspen wrote:

    We heard a cuckoo on the first weekend in May this year on the Quantock Hills in Somerset.

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  • 19. At 4:49pm on 29 May 2009, wheateater wrote:

    We heard a cuckoo, but didn't see it on 10th May at Sutton-in-Craven near Skipton N.Yorks

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  • 20. At 5:52pm on 29 May 2009, Caxtonsapprentice wrote:

    We heard a Cuckoo on Saturday 9th May and Sunday 10th in Bourne Wood Lincs.

    Our son has a regular Badger that visits his front garden most nights, his house is on the edge of a field in Melton Mowbray Leics.

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  • 21. At 6:04pm on 29 May 2009, jacadot wrote:

    Spent three wonderful hours on monday May 25th watching 6 bluetit chicks fledge from the nest box on our front wall. It is a sparrow terrace but always had bluetits, right outside a bedroom window but we're hidden by the net curtain. Fascinating watching the parents 'encourage' the chicks to come out by offering food then flying off to a nearby tree with it still in their beaks. 1st one went at 7.45am and last one at 10.45am.

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  • 22. At 10:00pm on 29 May 2009, millsaw wrote:

    We have heard the cuckoo three times recently. We live in East Dorset close to the Ringwood Forest and within a short drive of the northern side of the New Forest.

    It was lunch time on 11th May we heard the cuckoo in the Ringwood Forest. Next we heard one on 18th at Broomy Walk, Linwood New Forest at lunch time, and again in the evening on 29th May at Mogshade Hill, near Bolderwood in the New Forest.

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  • 23. At 1:14pm on 30 May 2009, lincoln0001 wrote:

    i live in keadby,north lincolnshire.my wife heardour normal spring vsiting cuckoo just over 3weeks ago,near keadby drains.i have also heard one at the river torr near crowle 3miles away,also a friend who has a farm in susworth 8 miles away is woken each morning by a cuckoo.

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  • 24. At 5:36pm on 30 May 2009, MarionL wrote:

    On Friday 29th May 2009, I heard a cuckoo in the Lower Rainham (near Gillingham, Kent) area. This is the first time this year I have heard it, and I heard it again today. It has been a regular feature here for many years. The site is on the River Medway and there are orchards and serounding trees.

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  • 25. At 7:08pm on 30 May 2009, Bill_Ditkwik wrote:

    I saw and heard a cuckoo at Thursley Common on the Surrey Hampshire border on 24 April. Another was calling in the distance.

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  • 26. At 8:11pm on 31 May 2009, myairedale wrote:

    We heard and saw two cuckoos on the Charnwood Forest edge of Shepshed, Leicestershire in the middle of May.

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  • 27. At 11:51pm on 31 May 2009, AlisonClough wrote:

    I first saw a cuckoo in mid April 2009 at Zennor, near St Ives, Cornwall, TR26.
    I have regularly seen & heard a male cuckoo (probably the same one) at Lady Downs near Zennor, most recently this evening. I saw a small bird following (chasing?) a cuckoo near here last week.

    I have heard cuckoos in the Zennor area each summer for about 9 years.

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  • 28. At 11:07pm on 01 Jun 2009, kiwijan wrote:

    There have been at least 2 cuckoos in this area for the last 2 weeks as we heard 2 at the same time, coming from different directions. I live in a semi rural location in Cranleigh, Surrey GU6 8JN

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  • 29. At 07:57am on 02 Jun 2009, morningcountrygirl wrote:

    We have a lot of wild birds regularly visiting our garden but one male balckbird has really made himself at home; when the back door is open, he comes into the kitchen helps himself to the cat food, either has a drink or bath in the cats' water bowl before he wanders off. The most surprising thing is that the cats just sit and watch him and wait until he has finished!

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  • 30. At 10:49am on 03 Jun 2009, amazinghousewife wrote:

    I have heard cuckoos in canterbury Kent 1st week of May
    and every day for a week, 2nd week of May in Bridgenorth Shropshire

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