Former Westcountry Television Presenter Teresa Driscoll delights in Devon birdwatching
PUBLISHED: 21:15 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 09:52 20 February 2013
It's nesting time again, and Teresa finds that working from home provides a whole new set of distractions that involve binoculars and water pistols<br/><br/><br/><br/>There was no way I could stand by as one distraught house sparrow called...
It's nesting time again, and Teresa finds that working from home provides a whole new set of distractions that involve binoculars and water pistols
There was no way I could stand by as one distraught house sparrow called for her baby while a murderous moggy lay wiggling its bottom in the wings
Let's get one thing absolutely straight before I start. I'm not a twitcher, OK? Not that I have anything against twitchers, you understand. Bill Oddie, after all, has made the term positively acceptable, but then he does have a beard which seems to be part of the job description and I don't.
So if I'm not a twitcher, why do I have a set of binoculars beside my kitchen window, you may ask? Also a water pistol.
This, I must explain, is yet another unexpected diversion born of working from home as a writer instead of on the telly. For it is to be the second spring of my 'new life' - and no-one told me there's a war on.
Only last spring - home at last - did I come to realise just how many nests have been established in the gap betwixt the rooftop and guttering of a wall adjoining our property. Also just how many cats now patrol our patch (previously unchecked) looking for lunch.
Maybe there is an argument for letting nature take its course and I'm quite sure the drama's been played out in our garden for years. But while ignorance is bliss, I'm now the star witness - hence involved. And firmly believing we mums have to stick together. There was no way I could stand by last spring as one distraught house sparrow called for her baby from my cistus bush while a murderous moggy lay wiggling its bottom in the wings. (OK, so my research since has discovered that she was probably a he as the daddy house sparrows apparently feed the fledglings, but she sure looked like a mum to me.)
Baby bird had either fallen from the nest or simply failed the first flight test, ending up in the ground cover directly outside my kitchen window. Problem was mum/dad couldn't risk feeding at ground level with so many cats around - and with me clattering about making coffee. So you could say just a little bit of twitching was thrust upon me.
Periodically I used the water pistol to get rid of the cats while making the supreme personal sacrifice of cutting back on coffee to keep the kitchen quiet. Once the weekend arrived I also ordered my bemused husband and two children to keep out of the kitchen while I hid under the kitchen table occasionally with binoculars to reassure myself that mum/dad had found and fed the baby. This sequence of events had to be repeated regularly, you understand, as the parent bird wouldn't risk swooping in to ground level until the coast was absolutely clear. And boy do those babies need a lot of feeding.
Undeterred by my husband's expression which ever more frequently these days reads 'you really have lost it, you know, Teresa', I cannot tell you the sense of achievement when by Tuesday the baby bird finally got his/her wings together and disappeared with mum/dad. I delude myself that they sang me a thank you. Who needs coffee?
Since then I have been reading up on the RSPB website to be better prepared for this year's Spring Offensive. And much to my relief I discover that more by luck than judgement I just about got it right.
Expert advice is to leave feathered fledglings where they are unless you can return them to the nest or they are on an exposed path, in which case you could try to tuck them under cover. Handrearing is too often doomed to failure apparently, and fledglings are normally cared for by their parents for about two weeks.
Oddly they do not mention water pistols on the RSPB website but I offer that as a personal suggestion - not because I am against cats per se, but it seems a relatively harmless way of stopping them lunching on the vulnerable. (Though I wouldn't advocate any of those high-pressure jobs which would no doubt be my husband's preferred weapon, he being less fond of cats than me.)
The RSPB site has also introduced me to the annual Big Garden Birdwatch which no doubt many of you already embrace. In the 2006 survey the house sparrow retained the top spot as the most common garden bird in Devon, followed closely by the blackbird then the chaffinch, but numbers were down so I will ignore all derision and continue to do my bit. Cats be warned.
And while we're on the subject of our feathered friends, I cannot resist mentioning one of my family's favourite walks just now, which is Stover Country Park, just off the A38 on the A382 towards Newton Abbot. Run by Devon County Council, the park offers 114 glorious acres with a lovely walk around a lake and a super picnic spot. (For those of you who still have your back numbers, it was featured in last September's Devon Life).There just happens to be a hide there for bird watching - also a visitor centre which includes a remote controlled camera to spy on the wildlife on the lake. No cats.
Of course I mention all of the above on the strict understanding that I am not a twitcher.
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