History and Heritage

Fe Fi Fo


Whenever I am researching late into the night my husband often says why don't you stop tonight and have a rest. Well, my apologises for not posting any articles for the last few weeks but I have been forced to take his advice, although it has not felt like a rest.

For as many years as I can remember the "nesting season" has been a busy one in our house, even when our own boys were young, there would be pheasant, duck and quail eggs hatching at various intervals. Last year I did have several failures and sadly I had to bury blue tits which for some unknown reason suddenly died after a week.

I am not the only "carer" for when my whippet Leah was alive and rearing her own pups (She came to us as a pregnant rescue) I was given 5 baby wild rabbits that had been disturbed by workmen laying a pipe line. After feeding by tweezers and before they were released back into the wild they shared life with Leah's family.

Leah with 5 pups and 5 bunnies
Nap time for the 5 bunnies with their puppy friends

This latest addition came with NEST, straight from a house which was being demolished. With parents frightened off, they appeared to be around three days old so I could not give any guarantees. I had to cover them with fleece to keep them warm and I was very worried on the second day, as their big fat tummies disappeared and I could see bones through the skin. A trusty tin of "Chappie", kept as emergency food for whatever may turn up, or tadpole supplement after the explosion in our pond each spring, proved a life saver as no end of searching under leaves did not provide a large enough bowl of caterpillars and I was loath to feed them spiders, as these do a good job catching flies.

No longer looking like plucked turkeys

However, I was feeding at night once and because the light was on, a moth entered the room and, without thinking, I fed it to them. As a breeder of butterflies and moths in the past I did feel an enormous sense of guilt but it just reminds one of the food chain which exists to sustain life.

Named them when they grew feathers

When feathers appeared I named them, FE the female was very delicate and shy and often stayed in a corner away from her more inquisitive brothers. FI could hold his own but often got stood on; in fact it was he who showed me that they had grown nails over night. There was such a squawking which was more like a cry for help than FEED ME and I noticed that FO was pulling FE's wing. In the first week and a half their feet appeared to be soft white cartilage limbs which they did not stand upright on, until this morning that is, when FO found that he could stand and grip. To save his brother from being dragged around the box it was time for perches and within two days my husband had to make larger ones (in diameter) as they mastered the art of perching.

Fo grew nails and perched for the first time

Now out of the cardboard box and in a brand new cage FO, who I had reluctantly looked upon as a bully, showed his true colours and I realised that far from being a bully he in fact was very wise, daring and fearless, probably the first to have hatched and his status made him the leader. Not content to use the perches he figured that freedom was up, up and away and so he was the first to use the cage bars as a means of gaining height. With my heart in my mouth I was there to offer a hand in case he fell the few feet from the top of the cage. I could see his brain working: well that was a waste of a climb there appears to be a roof and you can get that hand out of the way, I am free falling... plop.

Fi taking a first look

It took FE three more days before she plucked up the courage to go and see what her brothers were doing but then with three of them up there flapping wings like crazy, the shredded newspaper left the building as it were and my room continually looked like a cross country running team had been on a paper chase.

But better things were to come. Once again FO led the way and it was as if he had gotten fed up with free falling. Obviously the development of sparrows is time linked but FO's personality showed through and I could see him thinking: Wow, I'll use these things: Look! I can fly.

If the males taught or encouraged FE to fly, she certainly had the edge on feeding. They appeared to only want to "play" where as FE one day hopefully would be a mum and she set about investigating where "these tweezers" were getting food. Always watching me from under her hideout of shredded newspaper, one day she went to the plastic dish which had a pile of food in it. She began picking the edge of the dish and so I took out some food and lay it in the palm of my hand. At that stage I should have worn gloves but I guessed I was already imprinted so that bond would have to be broken later. For now she was really using her beak instead of just opening her mouth as wide as she could. Within another two days she started shaking her wings whenever I offered food but I refused to use the tweezers and she began taking it herself. It was funny to see a new skill appear, that of pecking instead of gulping, although when they had the hang of it they did take very large pecks and at first I had to remove some food or else they would be there with beaks wide open, mouths overflowing and I was sure they would not be able to breathe.

Fe, the female sparrow

When I was drinking a cup of tea the other day I recalled the jackdaws of previous years and especially Jack Jill and Buckets snack of tea dipped digestive biscuits. They would land on the table and strut up to my husband waiting for a piece of biscuit. I had Rich Tea biscuits and the thinking was to strengthen their beaks to be ready for cracking seed, so I offered them and found the tribe not as gentlemanly as the jackdaws because there was no learning to peck just grab and swallow.

Well so far so good. They can fly and we just have to perfect food finding for ourselves and for me to take a back seat. Then they can go outside for a spell of re adjustment, and hopefully as Pax the white crow decided after three years of living in an aviary but having the freedom of the garden during the day, it was time to fly away for good.

I shall miss them, but there is a much larger world out there than my office and a cage with a roof for them to explore. I still have Spadge the one winged sparrow and he is now in his 4th year.

If you want to read more on Spadge have a look at Our Feathered Friends.

Val Trevallion YEARGROUP


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