The gold finch search party

I was feeling in a good mood.  It was 1 o’clock in the morning and I was unloading camping gear from my car after having been at a music festival.  All was well.  Then Henry my cat appeared at my feet with a tiny bird between his jaws.  “Henry” I ordered. “Drop it”.  I scooped the cat away and there sat a tiny feathered creature, utterly intact with shining black eyes.  I thought, at first, that he had fallen from the house martin’s nest high above my head.  I could hear their gentle tweeting night-chatter.

“What to do”? I pondered.  Eventually, I found an old shoe box, punctured it with air-holes and laced it with softness, and popped him inside in the dark.  I would deal with him in the morning.

Morning came swift enough amidst dreams of falling birds. I was straight on it.  I called around all the chaps I knew with ladders who would make the lofty climb for a bird.  Having found one, I took a look at the nest above and again at the bird.  Wait a minute.  He is not a house martin.  He has a finch’s beak.  He likes seeds not insects.  Time to rethink.

With a bit of searching, I find he is a baby gold finch and a new plan emerges.  I phone the RSPB who tell me, as expected, to leave him safely near where I found him.  First dilemma, I could not leave him on the drive.  Where had he come from? I had no idea.

I lifted the lid and looked at him.  He turned to face me.  I cursed the large fluffy Henry who lay sleeping peacefully on his chair.   I took the chick into my garden and put the open box on the table, then sat back.  It had now been a good 10 hours since his premature departure from the nest.  Would they come for him?

On seeing the sky above, the little bird, flew up and then straight down into my wildlife area by the pond.  Not ideal, I thought.  How on earth would any parent bird find him there?  Peering out of an upstairs window I watched the drama unfold.  I could hear a flock of goldfinch.  Two adult birds, followed a minute later by two juvenile birds all of which took turns to swoop down to look for their chick.  They could hear his call.  Then, another pair of goldfinch joined in for a while. How astonishing, and how wonderful, I thought that there was an avian task force all looking for this tiny bundle of feathers.

The search continued, and the hours passed slowly.  It was difficult to behold.  Still they called for him and still they swooped.  “I mustn’t interfere” I thought to myself.  “No interfering, you’ve done enough” my inner voice scolded.  The calls from the adult birds dislodged my resolve.  “OK fellas, I’m coming in.”

On my hands and knees, I fought my way into the undergrowth, and there, after much crawling and scouring, I found him perched on a low branch of my Sambucus nigra, looking angelic. I gently scooped him up and crawled out.  Showed him to the goldfinch watching above me; hoping and wishing they could see what was happening.  I held him up and off he dive-bombed again.  This time into the Montana hedge, where, alas, he disappeared completely.  The calling and the search party continued.  Feeling powerless, I looked for him again but to no avail.

Feeling utterly frustrated, I heard a scuffling around my patio pots.  “There he is”. Trying to scoop him, he scrabbled into the woodpile under a log and then sideways into my shed.  “Oh no!”.  Out comes the content of the shed, and bit by bit down comes the log pile.  As he scutters away, I see him properly.  “Wait a moment, this is not a baby gold- finch, this is baby sparrow, and not the baby I am looking for”.

At this juncture I left the house for nature to do its own thing. It seems that helping is hindering and yet it is so difficult to just watch and do nothing.  As I drove away into town, I pondered what I had seen.  How astonishing that after all this time, the parents are still looking, and not only them but others in their flock.  I would not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes. The wonder and intricacies of the life around us never cease to amaze me. Whilst trying not to anthropomorphise, it makes me convinced that it is more than instinct that governs the lives of our feathered friends.

The end of the story is left to our hopes and imaginings, for who knows?  I saw the flock still calling for him at teatime but not thereafter.  I would like to think that the little chicks found their way back to their flock before the night time cold.  So that is the ending I will write.