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A box set series that stormed the internet

By Frances Burscough

Published 02/07/2016

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

Fledglings are everywhere at the moment. Glance out your window or take a stroll past some trees and you’re almost certain to see or hear one. They’re usually smaller, fluffier and paler in colour than an adult bird, and a lot noisier too.

For a few weeks before they are fully fledged and independent, juvenile birds follow their parents around, squawking and fluttering their wings erratically whenever they want attention or need some help with feeding. The speed at which they develop and mature is actually incredible to watch first-hand, as some friends of mine discovered for themselves recently.

A couple in England, Barbara and Tom, who I know through Facebook, had installed a new nesting box in their garden this spring which had a video camera incorporated into it. In early April they were delighted when they spotted a pair of blue tits casing the joint. For about two days they were in and out, in and out, surveying the box from every possible angle, like first-time buyers looking at a des res. Soon they started to bring tiny twigs, bits of moss and downy feathers in through the front door hole, while my friends watched the whole thing on their television screens and shared it with their friends on Facebook.

It was fascinating seeing the nest being formed before our eyes every day and watching how precise and intricate the whole home-making process was. After much tweaking, shuffling and preening, the nest was finally finished and nine perfect eggs were laid, one per day, for nine days. Then the mother and father took turns in incubating the eggs, feeding each other devotedly for another week until the eggs started to hatch and a brood of gaping beaks appeared in their place. But very soon disaster struck. A bad storm hit the North of England and torrential rain and winds buffeted the box. The parents panicked, left the nest and never returned.

But don’t worry, it wasn’t the disaster that it might have been, thanks to Barbara and Tom who decided to intervene and give mother nature a helping hand.

They brought the nest indoors, set up a warm space for it in a cardboard box insulated with torn-up kitchen roll and began the arduous task of hand-rearing the nine blind and helpless chicks. It didn’t take them very long to realise what an effort this entailed. These ravenous babies needed to be fed with live mealworms approximately every half an hour, so they set up a feeding rota. They got two pairs of forceps-style tweezers and while one did the feeding, the other removed the copious droppings. Just as well they were both retired from work and had the time to devote to the task. This went on without a rest for two whole weeks while the tiny writhing creatures began to fill out, sprouting more feathers and features every day. Eventually they opened their eyes and began to stretch their tiny wings. Not a single one perished, or even sickened, such was the dedication and love shown to them by their giant human parents, who by now had cut down branches from a tree and converted half their kitchen into an indoor aviary.

This of course was all captured on video recorder, which was shared across the internet and it became one of the most compelling TV series I’ve ever watched. So by mid-June when they at last flew away from their adoptive parents, we all shed a few tears of relief and joy.

Nine tiny balls of fluff, all perfectly formed and ready to take on the world had been saved from disaster and given a new lease of life. Two weeks on and they have started to feed themselves from bugs and grubs in the trees but as soon as either one walks out into the garden they are met with a chorus of tweeting greetings as they flit overhead to say hello.

Both B&T love the fact that they were able to make this little miracle happen and we in turn all felt blessed to be allowed to watch every moment live on our screens too.

However Tom says, jokingly, he’s dreading the day when they realise that he’s not their real dad and start to ask awkward questions.

Belfast Telegraph

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