For the past three and a half weeks, Sarah and I have been looking after a blackbird chick. Living in a large plastic box, I would take it to and from work and feed it soaked cat biscuits every couple of hours. I used the stem of a cocktail umbrella and it was a very efficient and clean process. It even started to learn to feed itself and to drink out of a bowl.
Inky, the landlords’ cat, caught the bird. I could hear it outside one morning over breakfast and I went out to look for the bird and I met Inky at the door, mouth full of feathers and legs and beak. I wrested it from her surprised jaws before she realised what had happened. Leg broken. I took it to a woman from Bird Rescue that I found on the Internet, and she didn’t think it would survive. She bandaged its leg and sent me away.
I learned to feed it. We spent time together in the garden looking for worms, quite hard to find, apparently. Last week, Sarah, bird and I all drove to West Eyreton to measure up the wedding venue. It grew a tail. It learned to fly. It learned to balance on my hand, or on my keyboard. It found its voice and would happily sit on the kitchen counter chirping, no two notes ever quite the same. We would talk to it, and it would talk back in its own chirpy way. It tried lettuce, and tofu, and millet, but it really only liked cat biscuits and worms. We bathed it a couple of times, and it would splash around unhappily, revealing its true, dinosaur form. We would cover it with a blanket to keep it warm. It roosted on high shelves. We would play it birdsong off the internet. We would play it “The lion sleeps tonight” on a tiny music box and it would stop and listen.
We removed its bandage and the leg was clearly destroyed: the lower leg was withered and dead, while the upper leg was pink and swollen. Today I took it to the Animal and Bird Hospital. I took a book so I could wait. They whisked the bird away and sent me away, and I asked and asked and finally they gave me a card so I could call later. Bad feeling. I called as soon as I got home, to check they wouldn’t put it down. Too late.
We had marvelled that something so small could do so much. Its eyes knew me.