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.