Two years ago I opened the back door to welcome another summer’s morning into my life. Everything was fine until I happened to look down on the patio and there sat a tiny, shaking baby bird. What to do? I gently picked him up cradling him in my hands. I say ‘him’ but I have no experience of identifying the sex or breed of a bird and it felt wrong somehow to think of anything as an ‘it’. I remembered hearing somewhere that if you find a chick it’s best to leave him where he is for his mother to sort things out. My fear was that on the patio this little bird would be dangerously exposed. After drawing this conclusion I slippered my way up the garden and placed him under a large leaf next to the garden wall. I could only hope that one of his parents might soon find him. There, my conscience was clear: I had done the best I could. Or so I thought. The next morning was just as beautiful but my little ‘problem’ had returned to the patio. This baby bird had struggled all the previous day and night to get across the lawn, down ten steps and back to almost the same place where I had first clapped eyes on him. I found this amazing yet I was being presented with a repeat of the same problem. I placed him in a box and called a friend who happened to run a bird sanctuary. It turned out that it was a Swift chick that would need a great deal of care and attention. Not only that but he would need to be fed every two hours on a diet of live meal worms which required drowning first and fed to him using a pair of tweezers. How gross is that! Anyway, to cut a long story short we were told that his chances were very slim as hand reared Swifts rarely survive this kind of trauma. We had no choice and began to baby-sit and feed our little charge who now went by the name of ‘Dickie’. We had been told that if Dickie should manage to put on weight then we would know when he would be ready to fly when his body began to vibrate.
It sounds quite funny now but at the time this was immensely serious. For weeks this chick dominated our daily lives. He did indeed begin to gain weight and, lo and behold, one Sunday morning as I held him his whole body started to shake. We stood in the garden as if we were about to throw a ball to each other except this was an exercise in ‘launching’ a bird. I opened my palms, he stretched his wings, and as I pushed my hands outward and upward, instead of falling to the ground or going to the hands of my better half, he shot off skyward never to be seen again. Though when the Swifts return each summer we do look to the sky…. and wonder.