A bird in the hand...
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...