River Wissey Lovell Fuller


September 2003

A heart-warming tale of wild life rescue


Isn't it amazing how visitors who drop in unexpectedly catch you totally unprepared, and it takes you some time to adjust and organise the situation?

A few weeks back 'Spadge' and his mate dropped in for a surprise visit.

We were awakened early one morning by this rather loud chirruping sound. Now the roof of our cottage is covered with the old pantiles which give excellent access for the birds. So we've got used to 'Sparrow City' above our heads. But this noise was a lot nearer. 'It sounds as though they're actually in the loft,' I said to my wife beside me in bed. (Well just who else do you think I'd have beside me????)

We roused ourselves and being the volunteer, (you know how it is don't you fellas. 'You're the man of the house, you'd better go and check it out.'), I was just about to drop the loft hatch when I realised the birds were sitting on the hatch itself! I shouted to my wife to fetch something to put them in and she came back with an empty ice cream tub. Standing on a stool carefully lowering the hatch I could see there were two fledglings sitting on it. So the plan was to slowly lower the hatch and catch the birds as they slid down. Now what is it they say about the best laid plans? All did not go according to plan, basically because we were dealing with three brains each going in different directions. Two came close. I managed to catch one of the birds as it slid down the hatch, but the other scrabbled up and to the side and was over the edge before I could get the tub underneath it. Tragedy... A drop of seven feet is no problem to a bird with its feathers all in place, but to a bird with feathers just starting to grow, it's suicidal.

So with Spadge, (he couldn't tell us his real name so we gave him that one), in the tub we placed his injured mate with him, hoping that he wasn't too badly hurt. Alas it was not to be and he got his Angel wings later that day.

Have you noticed that the young, it doesn't matter what species whether human, animal, or bird, have a great ability to get your attention? Spadge certainly could. There we were trying to pacify him with different types of food, until eventually my wife found he liked porridge mixed with a little water and a small amount of well mashed corned beef. We should be grateful our babies only demand every 4 hours, Spadge was shouting every 15 to 20 minutes! Still he did seem to like the food, which settled him down and, like every good baby filled his nappy so to speak, quite regularly, which is always a good sign that things are moving. Sorry I just couldn't resist the pun!

Then came the problem of what to do next. We didn't think that porridge and corned beef was going to sustain him forever. His parents no doubt, were getting worried about him and his mate. So my wife phones up the RSPB and a nice young man, (she always gets a nice young man. Well I was a nice young man once!), who advised her to put the bird as near to where we thought the nest was and the parents would find it. Fine. Except that it would mean putting Spadge on baking hot pantiles, it being a very hot time in the summer. Also, we could not be sure of where the nest was and I didn't think it practicable to lift all the roof tiles off to find the nest I also wanted to see if the parents were still looking for their young.

So another plan was devised. We put Spadge in a deep-sided cardboard box so he couldn't jump out. This was put on top of the oil tank outside the kitchen, from where we could watch. Spadge performed magnificently, calling out in his loudest chirrup and very soon a pair of sparrows came looking. It took them a few minutes to discover where Spadge was and it seemed as though they were trying to encourage him to fly away with them. When that tactic didn't work and he was still shouting for food they flew off and presently came back with beaks full of food. The only thing was they were not keen on going into the box and kept hopping round the edge. Eventually they flew in and proceeded to do a sort of continuous meals on wheels, or wings should I say.

A little while later we heard a lot of agitated chattering from the parents. Looking out of the window we saw a neighbour's cat climbing up the oil tank. It was also answering Spadge's call, but with a completely different agenda. Fortunately I managed to get outside and shoo it off before it achieved its ambition.

Go to plan C.

Happy then that the parents were answering his calls and as evening was approaching, we decided to place him under the pantiles as near to where we thought the nest was. This is all fine when I'm standing on the ground. But when I'm at the top of the ladder, and realise that I need to lift about a dozen tiles in order to climb to where I think the nest might be, there suddenly seems to be a lack of strength in my leg muscles. So with GREAT CARE I lift the tiles and climb up the battens, only to find no trace of a nest. Knowing that the birds run all over the felt under the tiles I decide to release Spadge at that point anyway. Down the roof and down the ladder to collect our visitor. Up the ladder, up the roof, and gently ease him out of the box. He's off like a rocket under the tiles, leaving me hanging on two thirds of the way up the roof. Not even a backward glance or thank you! Sometimes these youngsters can be so ungrateful, uncaring, and selfish.

So with tiles replaced, ladder descended and a stiff drink in my shaking hand, I think, hopefully, job well done. WRONG!!

Next morning, bright and early, who should be shouting in the loft again but Spadge. Again sitting on the loft hatch, so we had to go through the same procedure to catch the little 'b ', sorry, 'bird'. He obviously liked my wife's food more than we thought. So we gave him some breakfast and I said that if he thought I was going to lift all those tiles again he was very much mistaken.

Up the ladder, lift a tile within arm's reach, and release him. Of he goes again with out a by your leave. After a while we hear him shouting to his parents, no doubt telling them of the terrible room service he'd received at the hotel downstairs.

He's not been back. So we hope he is now fully fledged and flying around with his cousins. We tried our hardest to keep him on the straight and narrow.


Ray Garrett

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