The baby chick


They have gone at last. I watched as the first fledgling took flight off to the woodland. A day later its three siblings hung onto the side of the nest and dived into our nearby medlar tree. There they sat and preened and stretched their wings before disappearing.

I have not seen the spotted flycatchers since and my pink climbing rose seems positively uninteresting now that they have gone. Their nest is hidden deep in there but is now still and silent. I wonder what happens next. Do they set off for Africa immediately or do they just head off for our south coast, then wait and feed, before starting their long journey in a few weeks’ time?

In any case, I have another bird to watch. It is not rare and not truly wild but has served as a distraction for me. It is a red-legged partridge. Normally, I would not like it in the garden but this one has a little chick in tow. She would originally have had at least ten young, but they are all gone and there is only this one left. Its body is about the size of an acorn with bits of hair sticking out instead of feathers. It is a little whisper of a thing rolling and blowing along, shadowing around its mother.

There is no sign of the male partridge which is strange because the female is very unusual in that she makes two nests and lays eggs in both. The male sits on one nest whilst the female incubates the eggs in the other, so cleverly, doubling their chances. But that is in theory because there is only this one tiny chick left in our garden.

Yesterday, we heard such a cacophony of noise from the garden birds when a sparrow hawk darted in. Afterwards the partridge was alone near the hedge with no sign of little ‘Whisper’. The mother carried on regardless picking amongst the leaves for seeds. However, a few minutes later the tiny shadow was there again alongside his mother. Perhaps he is too small for the sparrowhawk to bother with or perhaps, unlike his brothers and sisters, he was quick off the mark and dashed into the undergrowth in time. He is lucky.

And I have been lucky too, I have seen where all the foxgloves are – they are in abundance at Stiperstones. I saw masses of them, like daggers, perhaps thrown down by one of the fabled giants of the area. They are growing there in unhindered profusion. Mary Webb’s steeples, foxglove bells with ‘lolling tongues’, but they are silent as the bumble bees fumble for nectar into their bells and down their speckled ‘throats’.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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