Friday, 18 April 2014

The Story of the Blue Tit Rescue.

This is not my story but my friend Eileen’s story from the Isle of Wight who has kindly agreed to share it with everyone as she does not blog herself.  It happened in 2006 when Eileen’s husband was alive and they rescued these little ones together so these are her words written at that time.   I am linking this post with SATURDAYS CRITTERS.  These first few shots were taken off the video but now I will turn the story over to Eileen. 

 28th April 5 eggs

Little did we know when we bought a nest box complete with camera what drama would unfold.


We sited the box close to a thick hawthorn hedge so that there would be plenty of cover and the same day we had a pair of blue tits take up residence. We were fascinated by the nest building. Moss for the base placed with great care, all types and lengths of dry grass. This was then woven together with hair from our Golden Retriever and lined with feathers from the local Geese. We were really amused when they brought a large feather into the box and wrestled with it for several days. One night the female, who roosted every night in the box, slept underneath the feather. Several more were brought in and used to cover the eggs before leaving the nest.

Female asleep at night
  
The female seemed to do most of the incubation and certainly spent every night in the box.

Female incubating

The male never roosted in the box. 
All 6 eggs hatched and by the 23rd May 
they were beginning to look like blue tits

 23rd May


 26th May

Both parents fed the chicks about every 30 mins some times arriving together in what was becoming a very confined space.  On one occasion the male appeared with a very large caterpillar too big for the chicks. After much twittering the female took it off him and flew out of the box reappearing a few moments later to continue her nest cleaning.

 We didn’t record video after the 26th May as things became a little hectic and video was the last thing on our mind.


Our drama started on the 26th May when the female failed to return that night. She was always, without fail, back in the box just before dusk, so began a very anxious wait until morning.

She didn’t come back, our worst fears were realised, it was possible that the local Sparrow Hawk had taken her. The male continued to feed them all and worked very hard in what was a difficult time as the weather was very cold and the green caterpillars that they collect from the oak trees nearby were very scarce. We put out mealworms to help but he didn’t  seem to like them. The Robin had a great feast though.



Temporary aviary complete with the dogs towels for shade & to deter the Sparrow Hawk.

On the afternoon of the 29th May the male didn’t return to the box. We thought he was trying to entice the chicks out of the box and one did leave that afternoon. We were quite anxious as the remaining 5 chicks had not been fed all afternoon. We contacted several wildlife centres for advice and most of them said leave them alone and let nature take its course. One lady at a rescue center was very helpful suggesting maggots from a fishing shop and dried egg from the pet shop if we did have to help them.

As we didn’t know how long it took to entice them out we left them alone till the following morning when we were up at dawn to see how they were. We were alarmed to see one dead chick and all the others calling very loudly with no response from outside. At this point we decided to intervene (we turned the camera off as leaving them to die was not an option) and bring the box indoors and put it temporarily into a cage we keep for injured birds that seem to find us from time to time.

While we were preparing the cage with branches for perching, another chick left the box and sat in the hedge calling, we watched from a distance but the male was not around. We then took the box off the wall and put it into the prepared cage. It was not long before the 3 remaining chicks were hopping about the branches in the cage. Getting them to eat was not straight forward they would look at the wriggling maggot on the end of a pair of tweezers but not eat them. The break through came when we brushed their beak with a squashed maggot and there was no stopping them. They each took 3 maggots and retired to the back of the cage quite satisfied.

We decided to look for the other chick that had left the box earlier. To our amazement it was sitting in some long grass a bit wet and bedraggled still weakly calling for an adult. It was quite easy to pick up we dried it with some kitchen towel and put it in with the others. We then offered the first three some more maggots and they all came to the tweezers and took a few more, this encouraged the damp chick to take about three and then sit near the others.



 On 30th May we are now the foster parents to 4 hungry chicks needing to be fed every 30 mins dawn to dusk. I would get up before dawn to uncover the cage and open the window so that they would get used to the light naturally and the sounds of other birds waking up. They were not interested in food immediately and I soon learned to leave them until they called which was about 1 hr after dawn. We fed the dried egg by mixing it to a paste and pressing it onto the bars of the cage. This was very successful the chicks were soon feeding from this when they wanted and still coming for the maggots.


Our next step was to get them more room outside. We decided to convert the arbour into a temporary aviary. We bought several metres of pond netting, this had a mesh small enough to keep them safe, and fixed it all over the arbour. We cut some bushy oak tree branches and put them inside the aviary. 


 Feeding time by hand



 We changed the branches every day which allowed them to investigate and find food themselves. They were still fed from early morn to dusk with maggots in tweezers and dried egg paste moulded to the branches. We started to drop the maggots onto a ledge and they would pick them up.




After about 10 days in the aviary they were looking ready for release they were also attracting and communicating with other adult and young blue tits from around the garden.



On the release day we removed the netting from the back of the arbour and they flitted into the hedge behind. They were around the garden for a few days but after that as all Blue Tits look the same so we can only hope that they survived. We have always fed the birds in our garden and for a time we scattered the egg paste in the hedge.

Would we do it again? Yes if the need arose.  Are we going to set up the camera box again? Maybe!!  

Well I hope you all enjoyed hearing this wonderful story and the dedication of Eileen and her husband to ensure these orphaned Blue Tits had a great chance of survival.  I am hoping that Eileen will set up her camera in her bird box this year and we then might be able to see this years chick developing.

My many thanks to Eileen for letting me share this story and photographs.

Thank you for visiting and also thanks to those who left comments on any of my blogs.

24 comments:

  1. How amazing! I loved your post on thud

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  2. Eileen is truly wonderful for doing all this. I know she must have lost a good bit of sleep, too. The last picture shows how all the hard work paid off.

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  3. Oops, something happened, hope you got my comment...Your friend is wonderful and dedicated!

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  4. That's a lovely story Margaret; and well done to your friend Eileen and her husband.

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  5. That's a great heartwarming story Margaret...well done to Eileen and her hubby. I wonder if any of those lucky chicks ever returned to the area to nest and rear offspring of their own?...[;o)

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  6. Lovely! :) Thank you for sharing

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  7. What a wonderful heart warming story. Thank you Margaret, and thank you Eileen.

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  8. Amazing story told in such detail and so well documented. Thank you to you and Eileen for sharing with us.

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  9. I'm so happy your friend found a way to rescue those precious babies. Too bad she couldn't have banded them or something. At least she was able to give them a good start.

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  10. Sweet, sweet story. The blue tits are such beautiful little birds. Thank you for taking the time to share.

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  11. That's dedication! I've rehabbed a few birds in my day. The chicks are the demanding ones. They always need to be fed. Thanks for sharing.

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  12. Margaret, what a great post. I am happy that the Blue Tits chicks were able to be rescued.. It was a wonderful story from your friend Eileen! Thank you to Eileen for sharing the story and photos. And thank you Margaret for sharing your post on Saturday's Critters. Have a great weekend! Happy Easter!

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  13. What a lovely story Margaret. Thank you for sharing it ... your friends are wonderful people. Every 20 minutes day and night -- that takes real dedication. Amazing.

    The blue tits are such adorable little birds. I hope Eileen does set up the nest cam again.

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  14. Oh waht good people you are to raise the orphan chicks! Sure was a lot of work!

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  15. how sad this story was in the beginning... losing both parents... but it had a very happy ending. so glad she and her husband were able to rescue those blue tits. it's a great feeling to help a helpless animal or bird. hope all is well. have a great day/ weekend~

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  16. A wonderful story Margaret and superb dedication by Eileen and her husband. A great post and photos :) Thanks to all concerned for sharing :)

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  17. Oh, they're so adorable! Wonderful photos and Eileen and her husband did a great job with the chicks. I wish you a Happy Easter!

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  18. What a dramatic story. I'm glad this story ended happily.
    Sometimes birds need our help...
    Happy Easter !

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  19. Oh My---what an awesome story... AND--it's on EASTER Sunday.... New Life... I'm in tears this morning just reading this... I would have done the same thing... I'm so glad that those four little birds were SAVED... Nature can be so cruel.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Hugs,
    Betsy

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  20. We took in a wounded robin one year. What a mistake. We couldn't teach it how to be safe and a blue jay got it. So sad. I'd love a nesting box with a camera!

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  21. Awesome rescue story.
    Thanks for dropping by :)
    1sthappyfamily.com

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  22. wundervoll wie sich da eingesetz wurde Margaret

    DANKE mit einem LG vom katerchen

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  23. Is there anything more precious than babies! Human or bird!

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  24. Very helpful to us who are raising 5 Blue Tits at present xxx

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