Swimming in lockdown

The endangered spotted fly catcher bathing in the bird pool

I would give anything to go for a swim right now. I used to swim, twice a week – in the old days b.c. (before coronavirus). I met my friends and took health giving exercise. Now I don’t even know where my ticket is. In any case, I expect it is out of date.

Early in the week some little creatures took an unexpected swim. A pair of blue tits have been in and out of the nest box, on the old apple tree, for over a month now. The young fledged this week. Four of them flew uncertainly into the long orchard grass. Their colours of pale yellow and faded blue are good camouflage so they can hide from predators. They are small and about the size and weight of a wine bottle cork.

But there is one danger, which has never caused a problem before, and that is our wild pond. It is on the corner of the orchard. It was a warm day and I imagine that the young blue tits were thirsty. They went down for a drink and three of them fell in. What a good job my husband was walking by.

Normally, the rule is that you must never touch a young bird. Wherever they are their parents will feed them and look after them. This was an exception; the baby blue tits were in trouble. They were ‘swimming’ with their wings outstretched but they did not float like a cork. Their heads were going under the water. 

One by one they were fished out, and saved from drowning, whilst the parents were making angry noises nearby. They are now back in the long grass again and quickly drying and away from danger.

The rare spotted flycatchers are still here, also seemingly not in danger in our garden. This year, I have time to watch and they are easy to see, as they have decided to nest in the rose trellis again, just outside the window. They came all the way from Africa and quickly found each other. They seemed excited to see meet up. Well, they would be after such a long lonely journey. 

They couldn’t seem to get enough of being together and decided immediately to make a nest, with dry grass and cobwebs. It took them a week to build the scrappy platform for their eggs, just outside our patio doors.

All this means that we cannot use our patio and certainly can’t open the door which could crash onto the nest. But we can see them and that is a treat and worth keeping our distance.

Another treat has been friends coming to the end of the drive to chat. It is a quiet country lane and, apart from the new flush of joggers and cyclists, I don’t see many people. I stay at the door and my friend keeps her distance at the gate and chats. What a pleasure. Wildlife is good but no substitute for a real person.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

A baby blue tit drying off after its tumble into the pond



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