I pull onto my driveway and the girl visiting next door greets me with ‘Are you the bird man?’ An unusual beginning to a conversation. And the beginning to an unusual day…
It seems I have a reputation as someone who charms the birds from the trees – especially since rearing my first successful brood of robins. [Okay, so robin mum and dad probably helped quite a bit, but with a constant supply of mealworms, I’d like to think I had a significant hand!] One of the regular visitors to the garden are a pair of collared doves, and while I was out one of them had apparently been attacked by magpies. The new neighbour, Margaret, pulled me into her garden “I don’t think it can fly. There were feathers everywhere,” as she led on. “I managed to shut it in the cupboard at the end of our garden.” [Uh, don’t ask!] She slowly opened the mirrored door to the wardrobe lying on its side to a sudden blast of frantic grey wings spiraling around my feet. I calmly, but swiftly, reached down and gathered up the flapping wings. I held it quietly to my chest, the bird’s heartbeat almost as swift as my own. “I knew you’d know what to do,” said Margaret. I have no idea why she thought that. And I now stood there mostly not really knowing of what to do next!
The bird calmed and I gently fanned one wing at a time; the left wing had lost a number of significant flight feathers, as well as a number from its tail; a couple of puncture wounds, from what I assume to have been the beak of the magpie, oozed a small amount of blood.
But its eyes were bright and otherwise seemed surprisingly well. Margaret went and found a cardboard box when I noticed the other one of the pair looking down from the fir tree in my own garden. Can birds show concern?
I tracked down a wildlife rescue centre, Secret World, and gave them a call. They would take the dove but didn’t have anyone in the immediate area today – could I get it to them by any chance? An hour’s drive away, we reached the compromise: they would try and arrange for someone to meet me somewhere en route for an exchange. An hour passed … no call. I called again, and somehow, a few minutes later I found myself agreeing to pick up two more injured animals from a vets on the opposite side of the city!
Another hour later and my cramped car held a small menagerie.
In the footwell, my collared dove had been joined by a hedgehog and, tucked snugly behind the passenger seat, a very excitable jay! I’d somewhat inexplicably become a wildlife rescue driver for the day!
The drive wasn’t uneventful. I’m sure we’ve all suffered those moments when a large fly or even an insect of the striped stinging variety becomes an irritating distraction as it zigzags across the windscreen. So, imagine, then, should a collared dove decide to leave the confines of its cardboard hospital and aim at the sky! Fortunately, I was actually stopped at a junction when it happened and managed a heart-palpitating recapture … albeit to the bemusement of the car driver waiting behind and the lady with the pushchair waiting to cross the road, as my arms flapped as wildly as the car-entombed bird.
I finally pulled into the rescue centre’s car park and walked into the reception to be greeted by a wildly enthusiastic hug from the cheekily persuasive Ann, one of the women manning the phones. I glanced up at the whiteboard behind their heads and laughed …
I’d hopefully earned that enthusiasm and the accompanying tea and biscuits – although I declined the gentle persuasions that I might like to volunteer on a more regular basis. [The persuasion had already got me this far!]
Marlies and I slowly checked in the new patients, including the sickly little hedgehog
and the excitable but finally exhausted young jay, which may’ve simply left the nest too early.
Secret World was a new world to me. But after this experience I was really moved by the dedication of all the staff involved – many of them volunteers – seemingly open to taking in any distressed critter. There was certainly a moment this morning when I really felt the options for the collared dove were limited.
So, that was yesterday, and having just spoken to Diane at the centre there appears to be some hope the collared dove will recover and could therefore be returned to the wild – something I’d particularly like to do, given that its mate has cast a slightly forlorn figure outside my window on and off for much of the day.
A testament to the work done at Secret World can be seen on this sign …
… and last month alone they took in 1,011 sick and injured animals. You can donate and support the work to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife at Secret World Wildlife Rescue here.