Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Really can hardly type, but for some reason I feel compelled to share a small avian drama with you.
This morning I saw a small rook that had, I assumed, fallen from its nest. It appeared unhurt but unable to fly and was just sitting in the rough ground under the horse chestnut, blinking at the world. I kept the dogs away and hoped that it might get up the energy to fly off.
Just now, I took the dogs out and there was the little black bird. It had moved about thirty yards, which I took as a good sign, but was still doing the hapless sitting and blinking thing. Its parents were roaring about overhead, shrieking madly at me if I got too close. Also, amazingly, one of the oystercatchers, who acts as a decoy while his mate is on her nest, was circling about the chick, as if watching over it. (This might be sheer sentimentality on my part.)
I went in, unsure what to do, and called my sister.
'Can you put it in a box and feed it milk?' she said, vaguely.
'I'm a bit afraid the parents might dive on me in a terrifyingly Hitchcockian manner,' I said.
'Yes, yes,' she said. 'Much too scary. Probably let nature take its course then.'
'Red in tooth and claw?' I said.
'Red in tooth and claw,' she said. I could tell I no longer had her full attention. 'Poor little rook,' she said, vaguely. 'Really, all I can think about are my new curtains.'
The curtains, it transpired, were a triumph of unparalleled proportions.
'Maybe take it some bread dipped in milk,' she said.
In the end, I took it some Dundee cake which my gorgeous friend Matthew had brought me yesterday afternoon. Let it eat cake, I thought.
I scattered the crumbs around, as it watched me with its shining black eyes. Once I got close up, I could see it was not a rook at all, but a jackdaw. It sat very still, its feathers all puffed up. The parents and the oystercatcher immediately set up a tag team of diverting cries, so I moved away before I completely freaked them all out.
It is red in tooth and claw. I was brought up on a farm, so I should not be squeamish about this, but the poor tiny thing looked so puzzled and fragile and vulnerable. I am afraid the wily old dog fox who lives in the park will have it for his midnight snack.
I still feel a bit guilty about leaving it out there, but the RSPB website says you should not take in wild birds. I keep thinking of The Pursuit of Love; I am perfectly certain that Linda was always adopting jackdaws with broken wings, and feeding them with milk out of a fountain pen. Or perhaps that was Northey in Don't Tell Alfred. Unfortunately, I do not think I should let Nancy Mitford be my guide in this.
Poor little chap. I did not want to bother him any more by taking a photograph, but he looked a bit like this: