Lockdown Diary – Day 66

I was sitting outside with my coffee this morning on another glorious, sunny day. Suddenly a half dozen newly fledged blue tits descended along with their mum. They were all cheeping like mad asking to be fed and mum would go to the feeder and bring back a sesame heart to feed to each one. At one point three of them were lined up in a row on a branch of the viburnum waiting their turn. I went upstairs to tell Alice and to get the camera in hope of getting some photos. But by the time I got back they had moved to the big trees in an adjacent garden and I wasn’t able to get a decent photo. It really made my morning seeing this little blue tits, which I reckon had all fledged just hours earlier. Especially after the experience of our nestbox a few weeks ago.

After Charlie’s success at getting his stimulus payment confirmed I decided to try again, only this time using the link for non-filers and it actually worked! I haven’t got the confirmation that I will actually get it but at least they now have my bank details and can deposit it directly. So fingers crossed!

Thus in a heightened mood I put on my brand new running shoes and set off despite it being one of the warmest days of the spring. The shoes felt so much better than my old, worn out ones, but they didn’t seem to have much effect on my speed. When I hit my 5k goal I decided to keep going and ended up running 6k, the farthest I have ever run. It wasn’t a blistering pace, having taken me nearly 45 minutes. But it was also the longest I have run without stopping since I started this crazy running thing two years ago.

In the afternoon I went to Crawley to collect the groceries from Sainsbury. It took a long time to get down there because instead of going down the A217 I went via Redhill on the A23 and I got stuck behind a very slow moving hearse and a line of cars following it. The weird thing was at several points along the road there were groups of people standing and clapping as the hearse went past. Eventually, it turned off towards the crematorium in Horley. But I can’t help wondering who it was who drew people out to say goodbye like that.

We decided to treat ourselves to fish and chips from Sea Salt, and although a bit of an ordeal picking it up it was good as always. So having gone over two months without a takeaway meal we have had four in 9 days.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that Donald Trump is a psychopath and I can’t wait until he is in prison or dead.

Lockdown Diary – Day 56

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.

Lockdown Diary – Day 55

A strange day, part quite nice, part angst ridden. Slept well again, up at 7.45am. Too early when you have got nowhere to be but better than 5.30am. Unloaded the dishwasher then saw there was murky water in the bottom of it. Oh great! Just what we need, a broken dishwasher. Then I remembered I had turned it off during our family Zoom call as I was doing it from the kitchen and forgot to turn it back on. Never mind, the dishes I had unloaded and put away looked clean enough!

After that I took out some worms for the blue tits, and that’s when the day turned bleak. One adult blue tit, probably the male, appeared but didn’t show any interest in the worms. Instead it sat just outside the box and called and called for about 10 minutes. Seemed like it was calling for its mate to come out, but who knows? Then it flew away. The female never appeared at all. Had she been predated? So spent the day watching the nest box and waiting for the parents to return. But no sign of them, and could not hear them when I went out in the garden. What I could hear was the hungry little blue tits chirping and chirping and chirping in the box. By noon still no sign of mum and dad and it was starting to look like the box had been abandoned.

Meanwhile, I went for a run, my fourth in 7 days! It was quite warm but still had a decent time although the Nike Run app was being weird again so who knows? About 3.30pm Alice and I drove to Bletchingley to have a walk along one of our favourite routes. It was her first time out since the dizziness started on Friday and it did us both good. Everything was so green and beautiful. We saw a wild duck with three ducklings swimming in a little pod, heard a cuckoo and saw two deer in a field. But it was just the change of scenery and the sound of the wind in the trees that made it so nice. In the past we seldom saw anyone on this walk but today we saw half a dozen others plus another half a dozen cyclists.

We got back home to find Alice’s Covid self-test had arrived. It looks very complicated so she will wait until tomorrow to do it. After supper (fishcakes) we sat in the garden, listening to the little blue tits calling for their mum and feeling sad knowing that they would likely die in a day or two without food. We could see their little heads peering out the hole. Just as I tried to take a photo one popped its head out (below). They look nearly ready to fledge but not without the encouragement of their parents.

Suddenly at 8pm a blue tit appeared near the box and eventually went in. It didn’t make any sound. No calling to the chicks, no sound at all as it went in and out a few times. It didn’t really take in any worms and eventually came out and flew off. We were glad that they had not been abandoned though it still seemed very odd, and still no sign of both parents. Maybe they will return tomorrow, or maybe the chicks will just fledge on their own. Fingers crossed. I hate thinking about having to clear out a nest box full of dead chicks. Hope it doesn’t come to that.

Lockdown Diary – Day 54

Today was another one of those low-energy days. Despite getting a good night’s sleep I just felt exhausted most of the day so accomplished very little. Charlie fixed his very tasty corned beef hash for breakfast. We had run out of mini meal worms so I drove over to Pets at Home. Still no wax worms so I got two boxes of the meal worms, which should nearly get them to next weekend when they are likely to fledge. Had to queue for about 10 minutes and afterwards went to BP to check the air pressure in the tyres as they didn’t feel quite right and I had been meaning to check them for a while.

Alice was feeling much better until she got a message from this Covid Symptoms app she has been using saying they wanted to send her a test. I don’t think there is any chance she has it as she hasn’t been near anyone but Charlie and I for two months. I suppose it was because she was putting in her symptoms for whatever it is that has been making her dizzy. It’s a self-test so that should prove interesting. I certainly won’t be sticking a giant q-tip halfway into my head!

She felt well enough to cook a fantastic garlic roast chicken dinner while I snoozed in the garden. I really could not stay awake all afternoon, might be hay fever or maybe I need to start using that app too! Got a good look at the blue tits when the sun was at the right angle to shine in through the hole in the nest box.

Zoomed with the family in the evening, which is always nice. Hope I have more energy tomorrow.

Lockdown Diary – Day 51

Another good night’s sleep. Think that’s four in a row now. Had a leisurely morning (like there are any other kind) then went for a run, my second this week so I am on track for my first three-run week in ages. I don’t know why but time passed much faster today. Some days drag and some speed by. Today was somewhere in the middle, Not that I accomplished all that much. We planned out next week’s meals and finalised the online shop. I will pick it up to tomorrow afternoon.

We were out of wax worms so I went back to Pets at Home to get more but they were out. Luckily they had mini mealworms and the blue tits found them to be an acceptable alternative. They don’t go after them like they do the wax worms, but they took them to feed their babies all the same.

I found a blue tit nest box livestream on YouTube that was pretty incredible. These birds have a ménage à trois going on! Two females looking after eggs that were hatching, both trying to sit on the eggs at the same time, with the male bringing them food which they would pass back and forth between them. Last year we watched an interloper try to take over our nest box from the blue tits that were occupying it and it was all-out war getting the unwanted visitor out of the box. So it seems really odd to see two females apparently raising chicks together.

Meanwhile, on the pandemic front, the news is not very good: 148,000 people in England have contracted Covid-19 in the past two weeks. So the loosening of the lockdown looks a bit questionable now. This nightmare is nowhere near over.

We all went out front at 8pm and clapped for the NHS. We have been doing this every Thursday night for six weeks (I think) and it remains a very emotional moment. It’s often the only time we see some of our neighbours.

Lockdown Diary – Day 48

It’s been a busy day, got a lot of things done and time seemed to fly. Maybe keeping myself busy is the key to getting through this thing with my sanity intact. Had a decent night’s sleep and got up about 7.45. The weather has taken a turn for the worse and although it was sunny this morning there was a cold north wind blowing and the recent warm spell is a distant memory. Definitely wasn’t going to be a day for sitting out in the garden, so I worked on my to-do list. Checked for collection slots on the Sainsbury’s app and as if by magic some appeared on Friday so I booked one. That’s always a relief. It also looks like they are starting to let people who aren’t on the vulnerable list book deliveries but no slots were available and I don’t mind going to Crawley to pick them up. Gives me something to look forward to. Looking forward to going to Crawley, how sad is that? Next I had to do something about the hungry blue tit chicks. I put the last of the wax worms in the feeder and mom and dad blue tit wasted no time in shuttling them into the nest box.

It had got down near freezing last night so when I took this picture it was good to see they all seemed alive and well, and you can see they are getting a mohawk of feathers on their heads. Being the soft touch I am I decided I had better go back to Pets at Home to see if they had anymore worms. I went yesterday and they were out. Luckily there was no queue to get in and they had a fresh stock on the shelves so the birds will eat well for the next several days.

The pet shop is next to a car wash so I decided it was a good time to run the dust-covered car through it, especially as there was no waiting and only a short queue at the cashier.

Back home I got out the long-disused strimmer from the shed and attacked the weeds and grass growing up through the bricks in front of the house. I have tried digging them out on my hands and knees and using weed killer but they always come back. So I strimmed the hell out of them. Don’t know why I haven’t done it before. In a few minutes they were all gone. Yes, they will grow back but they will in any case and at least I didn’t have to break my back pulling them up. The one thing I wasn’t about to do today was take two months’ worth of grass clippings and other garden waste and rubbish to the dump, which reopened today for the first time. Apparently cars were lined up for a mile waiting to get in. Crazy!

Alice and I went for a nice walk along the bottom of Reigate Hill. Not too many people were out and about so that made it all the nicer. That’s likely to change now that the idiot prime minister has loosened the lockdown in his cack-handed way. Now people can go out for exercise as often as they want, not just once a day. And people who can’t work from home are meant to go back to work, but only if it is safe and they don’t take public transport. So the nice quiet roads are going to get filled with cars to go along with all the families on bikes and people out walking who have to walk in the street to keep from getting within two metres of other people out walking. Yes, it makes no sense and everybody is pretty fed up with Boris Johnson and the Tories. And don’t even get me started about President Clorox Breath.

Lockdown Diary – Day 44

Slept a bit better last night. Two shots of Glenfiddich before bed might have helped. Still woke up at 6.30am and gave up trying to get back to sleep at 7.30. Spent the morning watching the birds outside the kitchen window. The blue tits seemed to be having trouble finding insects and worms to feed their chicks and I watched them bringing bits of apple in to the box all morning.

So despite saying we would not assist them this year, I ended up going to a local pet store to get them some live wax worms. In previous years I had ordered them online, last year mostly from Amazon, and spent way too much money. Only this morning I googled and found that Pets at Home in Redhill sold them a lot cheaper. So off I went and came back with five little pots of creepy crawlies for just £10. I put them in a small hanging feeder but it took them a long time to notice this bounty placed before them. But once they did they went back and forth from feeder to nest box until they were gone. I would only put out 10 at a time because last year other birds kept coming around and stealing them. This year they have so far all gone to feed the blue tits.

While we can’t see what is going on inside this year, we pretty much know from watching the camera in previous years. I was surprised to see them already trying to tease the chicks out by taking in a worm then taking it out of the box and calling to them. They are only four days old and their parents are already trying to get rid of them!

In the afternoon I got my bike out and had a short ride to the Clears and then up Pilgrim’s Way. A steep hill (a 31 metre rise according to the Strava app) reminded me that cycling uses a different set of muscles than running and I will probably be feeling it tomorrow.

Finished off the day watching the last episode of Chernobyl with Charlie. I think I enjoyed it (if that is the right word for something about such a ghastly event) as much as the first time. Extraordinary television.

Lockdown Diary – Day 40

The big four-oh! It seems like only yesterday that I decided to start writing this diary, and here we are in the sixth week of this madness.

Big news in our small world today. I was sat outside with my morning coffee and noticed the pair of blue tits flitting back and forth more than usual. So I put my iPhone up to the hole in the nest box and much to my surprise saw the gaping mouth of a hungry hatchling.

I wasn’t expecting to see this for a few more days but not having a camera in the box makes it hard to keep up with what’s going on inside. Such a shame that we have nothing better to do than sit and watch the nest box camera and they nested in the old box. But it is located right outside the back door and a kitchen window so we should have a ringside seat when they fledge in about three weeks.

We have decided not to supplement their diet with wax worms this year, but I am already worrying about their food supply. I have only seen them bringing in tiny little bugs so far. Fingers crossed!

Spent the day avoiding the news. The weather wasn’t conducive to sitting in the garden but managed to get a walk in to the Clears. Not as many people oit today as on previous walks.

Had a fantastic roast dinner and Zoomed with the family. A good day, all in all.

Lockdown Diary – Day 39

Oops, forgot to do this entry and now it’s late and I am very sleepy. So this is a placeholder until I come back to it tomorrow. Or not. Went for my first run in two weeks and it really felt great afterwards, if not so great for the first 2K.

Went down to Crawley on my own to pick up the groceries in the afternoon and the whole thing seems to be getting more chaotic each week. Waited for about 40 minutes and then got home to discover several things missing from our order. As I was putting stuff in the fridge I discovered a broken egg had dripped all over inside and I had to spend an hour cleaning up the mess. Just that kind of day. But hey, look, I have managed to write this entry after all! I am such a pro!

Lockdown Diary – Day 20

A day that was dominated by death and sadness. The news of the UK death toll going over 10,000 and the deaths of the famous and not so famous: Stirling Moss and Tim Brooke-Taylor, and a local legend in Reigate.

It was the latter I found the most upsetting. We called him Gangsta Grandad. He was a charming fellow in his mid-70s named Derek Primmer who was seen almost daily walking around town dressed like a teenage skateboarder/hip hop rapper. I would see him most mornings on my walk to Redhill station and he always looked amazing and always had a smile and a bright hello. As recently as last month I saw him and noticed that he was no longer as sprightly and was walking with a cane. Now he’s gone and our town won’t be the same without him walking along the street or sitting having a cup of tea in the cafe in the local shopping mall. RIP Derek.

Not much else to report. Another day spent sitting in the garden. I watched a jackdaw building a nest on top of our next-door neighbour’s chimney. It would fly into a small tree in another garden, snap off a length of twig and fly back up to the chimney. So we will have something besides the blue tits to watch this spring.

Oh, and happy Easter.