Nest Robber

A COMMOTION before breakfast; six Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush are gathered in what looks to me like indignant rage around a Magpie on the back lawn which is down at the edge of the pond, attacking a plump nestling, pecking at its head. I know that I should no more wish that Magpies wouldn’t take the chicks from ‘our’ back garden nests than I should wish that Osprey’s shouldn’t swoop on trout or that lions shouldn’t attack zebras but it’s difficult not to feel involved as this turns out to be chick from a Blackbird’s nest in the Ivy behind our herb bed.

We’ve been following the progress of the parents’ nest-building and feeding from the kitchen window, only yards from the nest. They’ve been busy over the past few days shuttling in a supply of worms and insects.

Deciding that it would be too late to rescue this chick anyway, I leave the garden birds to sort it out between themselves.

But, after breakfast, when I go down the garden to open the greenhouse, I discover a second chick. It looks like a miniature oven-ready chicken, naked, plump and bleary-eyed, with a row of plastic-looking quills along its stubby wings. Only it’s parents could love it. It’s got a spot of blood near the base of its bill but is otherwise unscathed. The Magpie must have been disturbed before this chick suffered the fate of its sibling, which the Magpie carried off down to the vegatable beds to finish eating.

I put my head into the Ivy and with some difficulty spot the nest, on a twining branch on the far side of the hedge. With a stick I poke away the remains of a third chick, hanging over the nest from a twig, which the Magpie had evidently killed in its attempt to make off with it.

I retrieve the surviving chick from the lawn and place it so that it’s as comfortable as it can be in the nest. It’s still warm and, I guess, healthy enough.

I’m anxious that the parents will have desserted the nest but by the end of the afternoon they’re back again, so it looks as if they’ve found the youngster. A day later male and female are still taking turns to pop in with food so it looks as if the Magpie hasn’t been back . . . so far.

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