The Lucky Orphan
One day, last year, about this time in July, a little ball of an unknown baby bird came waddling up the lane.
The frantic runaway came rolling into our drive at top speed on the bark of a neighbour’s dog. It was covered in fine yellow down and had a rounded beak and webbed feet. Using the maxim ‘never touch a baby bird’ we left him alone for his parents to find.
The hedgerows and fields are full of baby birds just now – there are young blue-tits and blackbirds, greenfinch and goldfinch, robins and wrens, all vying for food from their harassed, hard working parents.
Most of the birds have finished nesting but there are a few who are still sitting and are hoping the summer is warm and rich with food. Believe it or not the days are already shortening. ‘Haven’t noticed,’ I hear you say but it’s happening, slowly and almost imperceptibly the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer and there’s nothing we can do about it. The season is moving on and nature knows this and is racing against time. And are the parents of our baby bird still racing around looking for him?
In any case they never found him and he adopted us and followed us everywhere giving out a high pitched ‘peep’. In the end we put him in with the hens and he followed them around instead. At night he dutifully went into the hen hut through the pop hole and came out into the field called Goose Bottom in the morning.
Goose Bottom is now covered with plantain, sour sally docks and grass pollen-filled seed heads giving a silver sheen. The little orphan made himself at home here and grew fat on chicken corn and grass. ‘Don’t give him a name,’ people said, ‘you get too attached,’ but– I gave him a name – Lucky – he had to be lucky to find a place of safety here. Then slowly and almost imperceptibly his down disappeared and feathers grew and I could see half-moon white markings on his neck – he was a Canada Goose.
One night Lucky would not go in through the pop hole with the hens – instead he sat outside and there was nothing I could do about it. He sat looking up into the moon-lit sky and only joined his companion hens when they were let out in the morning.
At this time of year, young sleek foxes are trying out their hunting skills with slow, low creeping for a deadly kill. I worried for Lucky. But a fox did not come and one day Lucky started to practise flying, he set off flapping across Goose Bottom and landed safely. I knew then that he would leave us soon. You can’t stop nature, it creeps on like the fox.
One morning I saw Lucky circle over the hen pen before flying away for ever. Then yesterday a flock of Canada geese came over in their familiar V shaped formation. The one at the back seemed to linger and fly low over Goose Bottom – the hens looked up into the bright sky blinking in disbelief.
I like to think that it was Lucky saying ‘Goodbye’ but I wish now that I hadn’t given him a name.