Well, it took 55 days but it finally happened. I completely forgot to write an entry so am cheating and doing this one the next morning. But through the wonders of technology it will look like I wrote it yesterday. You follow? Oh, wait! Now I will have to write two entries today! FML! I suppose I could do it this way everyday and anyone who has happened to stumble upon this diary would never know. And in any case, it’s a fucking diary, not a daily newspaper! Deadlines, shmeadlines!
Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, yesterday, I mean today. I got up at 7am after yet another good sleep and went out to check on the blue tits. I could hear loud cheeping even before I opened the back door. And it wasn’t all coming from the box. I found a poor little blue tit had somehow fledged on its own, without any help from its parents, who were still nowhere to be found. How brave! How desperately hungry it must have been to take that leap into the big wide world all alone.
I watched him hop about and could tell that his wings were not yet up to flying. He barely fluttered them or attempted to fly. Too weak? Too young? Meanwhile I could hear another chick peeping and see his head looking out the hole. I knew the fledgling had little chance of survival and I thought about finding a box and taking it inside. But instead I got a few meal worms and removed their heads (just like the parents do) and tried to feed them to the chick with a little plastic ice cream spoon without success. I got a pair of tweezers and they worked much better and I was able to feed the chick four or five worms. My theory was that this would give it strength to get somewhere safe and maybe, just maybe be able to survive, though I knew this outcome was unlikely. But I had to do something.
Meanwhile a jay was flying around, waiting for its chance to grab the chick. I chased it away several times. The fledgling rather than seek shelter in the flowerbed instead came right up to the back door. Having fed it, did it think I was its mother now? It eventually hopped over to where the tap comes out of the house and managed to get up on the rim of a zinc flowerpot before sheltering behind it in the drain. Alice was now up and helping keep watch for the jay. But in the blink of an eye it struck and we could not longer hear the fledgling calling for its mother. It was gone less than an hour after leaving the nest box.
The chick that had been peeping from the nest box had gone quiet too. Had it been snatched from the hole? Had it fledged and flown away? I could not hear it in the flowerbed or nearby trees. I walked to the back of the garden listening for chicks in the trees, just as I had done in years past on fledging days. I couldn’t hear anything but other birds.
I took a photo through the nest box hole and could see at least two dead chicks. So after a few hours I decided to open it up. There were four dead chicks inside. One, probably the one I heard peeping, seeming almost ready to fledge, had died standing next to the hole looking up at it. Since we had only ever counted five eggs and chicks, it seemed all were now dead. Just 48 hours earlier they were all alive, and the male and female blue tits were flying in and out with food. They were all fully feathered and looked like proper little blue tits just a few more days away from being able to fly.
We have no idea why they had been abandoned. We still have not seen more than one blue tit in the area since Sunday evening, the male, so we assume the female must have been predated or just died. Even while the fledgling was on the ground I saw the male on the feeder, showing no interest in the drama that was unfolding 20 feet away. We will never know what went wrong. Having a nest box can bring great joy when things go well. But sadness when they don’t.
I spent the rest of the day in the garden, feeling meh.