Sunday, 30 August 2009

Hens, thrushes, a badger, damsons & plums

The cheeping was driving me mad. Some small bird making its presence known. Incessantly, for four hours. In the end, I opened the back door and there on the doorstep was a baby thrush, which promptly fluttered into the kitchen. It must only have left the nest that morning. One is advised not to touch fledglings that appear to be lost, as the parent birds will entice them back to safety; but not from the far corner of my kitchen. I popped this little one back under the shrub by the door, and then heard more cheeping … another much smaller fledgling huddled on a heap of stones by the barn.

Where were the parents? The thrush is my favourite garden bird and I am always aware of them in our large overgrown garden – bashed snail shells on terrace and anvil stones in various strategic spots around the place. Another hour went by; still the constant cheeping. Something was very wrong. I walk down the garden and find the tell-tale signs of a sparrow-hawk strike: thrush feathers on the orchard grass, others smeared on the trunk of a sloping plum tree. Sparrow hawks have to eat, and our garden is their occasional larder, their killing ground, but why the beautiful, shy thrush, now increasingly rare – they have enough to contend with, to survive an over-population of blackbirds that continually chase them away.

an adult thrush which alighted on our front wall last winter

I rang the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) who advised feeding the fledglings with scrambled egg. Every twenty minutes when I approached the box I had put them into, the larger baby sat, beak gaping, whilst I offered it egg crumbs. The smaller one was too weak; I had to dribble milk into its beak, probably not the right thing to do. Large baby escaped and is I know not where, little baby died in the night, for it had not eaten. I watch for another thrush to visit the garden but they are few and far between these days and after a sparrow hawk strike, all birds seem to disappear for a few days; the garden seems quiet and lifeless.

picking damsons in our orchard - we planted these trees forty years ago

All this happened whilst I was making batches of damson and plum jam from  overloaded trees – pick the fruit, feed the baby thrush, stir the jam, feed the baby thrush, stir the jam, feed the baby thruush; and then a second batch; a morning gone.

And drat it, a badger has dug a pooh hole in the new ‘eco-bed’ I must finish for  article photography, right where I had just planted a new red-berried pyracantha, alongside roses, clematis and herbs. The roots had been exposed and the plant looked sad and limp. Firmed it back into the soil; luckily it quickly recovered, watered with liquid seaweed feed.

my new 'eco-garden' which I have been working on all year - as it was at the end of July

the 'eco-garden' one month later, taken yesterday as I made the final plantings; rather raw, but birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures are already inhabiting. Over-wintering veg will go into the bed at the front, and salads into the rather ugly black box, which I can cover with a protective lid. The paler bricks in the wall indicate where our neighbour broke through with a digger (by arrangement!) - the large gap remained for almost two years and we could not reclaim this part of the garden meanwhile, for the digger had to be retrieved at the end of their building work - it was too large to go under their garage archway

On a more positive note, my four new hens bought three days ago are laying already: two ‘silver links’ and two ‘coral nicks’. They join the elderly rescue chickens that latterly only see fit to lay once in a while, when it suits them. Eggs again – I will make Raymond a fruit cake for Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow, and some flapjacks for the village fete.

our four new white hens are gradually becoming accustomed to their new home


  1. It is such a treat to visit your garden and realize what it can be to live closer to nature.

    I think that you certainly did all you could for those baby thrush. From what you've said about those hawks, I can see why your garden (and lots of other gardens, too) might be quiet.

    Your eco gardening sounds quite interesting. I'm hoping that you will continue to update us on how it evolves.

    My, you are a very busy lady! Best wishes.

  2. I am so sorry to hear of the fate of the thrushes. When we had nut nets outside my mum's bedroom window, in what used to be the Dairy here, a Sparrowhawk would regularly swoop across and take an unsuspecting victim enjoying its final meal . . .

    Your eco garden looks to be promising much. My intake area is like an explosion of Triffids, especially as the Elecampane has gone MAD this year.

  3. Love visiting your garden, thank you for allowing me in! Sad about the thrushes, but it's all nature's way isn't it, which can be harsh at times. And how lovely to have been in one place long enough to pick fruit off a tree you planted yourself forty years ago. Never achieved more than a few years in one place until we came to this house, and that was 20 years ago now.

  4. Good try with the trush. I didn't know they were in decline. so sad. This summer I saw two grasshoppers! They used to be all over when I was younger and then they disappeared. Maybe the thrushes, too, will make a comeback. How odd to see that - oh, what do you call it? The thing with handles that beats posts into the ground. My Mister used one today with me holding a pole steady. Our beans were falling down and needed something sturdy to lean on. Nice eco garden! - Jeanne in Oregon

  5. What a lovely post, although sad for the baby thrush, I loved seeing your garden...your posts have such a lovely peaceful quality to them...those damsons look mouth H

  6. Ah, sorry about the thrushes. They are such lovely birds. We too have a sparrow hawk, last time he got a sparrow, but we have seen him take blue tits and goldfinches off the seed feeder. But they are the "birds of the air" as much as the smaller ones, I suppose,

    How lovely to have damsons. My daughter used to have a damson tree and made the most delctable damson chutney. Alas, she has moved now, so no more chutney!

    You have a beautiful garden, ours is getting too big for us now, don't know what we will do.

  7. Your new hens are beauties! And so sad about the thrush.

  8. Hello! Just came over from Codlinsandcream. I like your writing very much and was especially interested in your Journal Blog, as I like to make things too. Best wishes Kath in Bucks

  9. LOVE the hens-nature can seem harsh at times, though can it not?
    Love your gardens and pics!

  10. Ann Hello, I'm from the Seattle Washington area and enjoy your blog. We enjoy alot of the same things. Thanks for sharing your interesting life with us.