Saturday, 6 June 2009

This is a critical day.......

We have had an inch of rain in the last twenty four hours, and the temperature has fallen well below ten degrees, after ten days of hot sunshine. There is a sharp East wind blowing. Well the garden was in urgent need of water and my pots have taken a lot of my energy over the past week or so with daily watering. But, sad to say, the weather couldn't have chosen a worse weekend than this one to take a sudden downturn.
Why? Well it seems to be the very week when all the ground-nesting chicks are hatching. Our fields were full of curlew, partridge, pheasant, to say nothing of one or two lapwing, snipe, oyster catcher and the like. Once these chicks dry out after hatching they leave the nest for ever - and to a large extent find their own food, although the parent/s hang around to help. If the weather is fine and sunny then all is well.
The farmer always likens partridge chicks to "bumble bees on legs" - in other words they are very tiny - and they are only coated in fluff. As with other birds, that good water-resistant coating of sleek feathers has yet to grow. Therefore wet weather mostly has fatal results.
Driving home from my Saturday morning coffee with a friend, I turned down our lane this morning and there - slap bang in the middle of the lane - stood a desolate curlew chick. He looked quite incongruous with his long grey legs, his rather moth-eaten plumage and his still-soft long beak. I drew up to him in the car and sounded my horn. He did not respond. I got out of the car and stood behind him and shooed him - again he did not respond. So I carefully picked him up and carried him to the long grass at the side of the lane. All this, I may add, done to the accompaniment of two frantic parents divebombing me. When I got home and told the farmer he said I should have carried the chick into the short grass of the field (it was cut for silage earlier this week).
Three hours later I took Tess for her walk back up the lane to see if I could find it. I knew when I was approaching it because again the parents were frantically trying to divert my attention. The chick was exactly where I had put it in the grass, it had its head under its wing and it hadn't moved. Luckily it felt quite warm when I picked it up.
This time I carried it into the field and stood it down in the short grass. It immediately straightened itself and looked around. When I came back past the field a few minutes later both parents were with it. So I have done all I could. Whether it survives or not is in the lap of the gods. I am sure lots of partridge and pheasant chicks are not even that lucky.

20 comments:

HelenMHunt said...

Poor chick - at least you've given it a chance though.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Oh, I do hope the weather dries out and the sun warms everything swiftly! I'm glad you were able to help the chick, Weaver.

Heather said...

Our weather has changed too, but not nearly so drastically. Is there any chance the parent birds would give their chicks shelter if things got really bad? I didn't realise that the chicks 'left home' so soon.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Lovely story for a Saturday morning. I sat on the dock yesterday when the barn swallow nest started chirping with newly hatched babies. Fascinated me to see the parents working together finding food and warmth for the baby.

Rowan said...

I hope the curlew chick survives, I was only thinking this morning that this heavy rain makes life very hard for young birds but that at least many of them will have fledged by now. I hadn't thought of the ground nesting birds though which have so very little shelter and protection from the weather. I hope it dries up soon enough to save most of them until they have the protection of proper feathers.

Derrick said...

Very distressing, Weaver. Fortunately, we still have sunshine even though it's colder. But I know that both in Newcastle and the Lake District it's a foul day. Fingers crossed!

maggi said...

Nature can seem to be so cruel at times but a least you gave that little chap a helping hand.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Such times and incidents seem so harsh; they rend our hearts and make us think nature a callous mistress. Yet nature is neither cruel nor kind…it is simply nature. And all life either copes and survives or it doesn't.

Which isn't to say we shouldn't help or shouldn't feel sorry when circumstances turn tragic. We do what we can, when we can, and hope for the best—a difficult admission, sometimes.

UKBob said...

Hi Weaver, I measured 39mm 1.5 inches of rain over night so as you rightly say, not a good night for the birds. Bob

Janice Thomson said...

It's a tough world out there for these little guys. A sad story that hopefully ended well - yet nature has her own ways of keeping things in balance.

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh well done for helping the wee thing, let's hope it survives. Our weather has gone colder and wetter all of a sudden too...

Leenie said...

It is so nice to see a whole list of comments of concern for the baby. There are so many in this world that aren't even aware of the beauties and drama of nature. Or there are the ones who think creatures are here to be used for amusment or worse. Good on you for taking time to help.

MarmaladeRose said...

Oh I don't know what I would have done, I have a bit of a phobia about birds. I wouldn't make a very good farmers wife would I?

I liked the bit from the book, A farmers wife. Loved it, I bet it's a great read.

Cloudia said...

We are the sisterhood helping small beings! I salute you with Aloha

Jenn Jilks said...

I nod in Grizzly's direction. Nature is what it is...
We must deal with what we are faced, and make the best of it.
You did not interfere, and sometimes the weakest do not survive for a reason.

Arija said...

It is wonderful how responsible we feel for all the threatened young things within our orbit.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for the comments everyone - I do agree that nature weeds out the weaklings but yesterday's weather was so awful that I feel it probably weeded out the stronglings as well. Today is dry but still very cold . You will see from UK Bob's comments that everywhere in UK had a lot of rain.

Woman in a Window said...

I was waiting with baited breath hoping it hadn't already died. Silly of me, really. Life and death, it all happens daily but when we strike a connection, it is so much harder.

Bdogs said...

Good for you. Poor chick. We're in the nesting season here, too, and an adventurous pair of northern cardinals are attempting a next in the rose bush by our front porch. This is the same rose bush where we found a shed snakeskin a couple of years ago.
So this evening as I was walking back from the barn, I heard a blue jay sound his warning note and I stopped. It was an odd time of day for a jay to be kvetching. About three feet in front of me a copperhead, one of our poisonous snakes, was slithering along and I would surely have stepped on him.
Too near the cardinal nest, he was, as well. But no longer a problem for person or bird. We do kill the poisonous snakes...

Bdogs said...

That was meant to be "nest" not "next", and please send us a spot or two of rain. We're back in the drought.