Big thank you from

When the best thing to do is just to do nothing

by Paul Cormacain

A friend phoned last week to ask me what to do about a young blackbird, she thought, which had fallen out of the nest.

Nothing, said I, and you could feel she was not happy. She was normally a happy, contented, caring, person and the thought of doing nothing did not rest easily with her. She wanted to help.

So it was explained to her that humans are not birds, and we cannot anticipate the needs of birds, and we can not be substitute bird parents.

The small blackbird did not perhaps fall out of the nest, rather it was trying its wings at a first flight, did not fly as well as an adult, but could not be expected to. Furthermore, the chances were that mama and/or papa were in the vicinity, encouraging the child, telling it not to worry, that its flying would improve.

If she remained near the adults would hide, would not communicate with the offspring, and the offspring would become more unhappy.

Causing the parents to leave would be one of the worst possible fates to befall the young. The other would be a visit from a suburban mini tiger, a friendly neighbourhood cat.

All friendly cats are brilliant hunters, and do not let any friendly owner tell you otherwise.

A dopey cat, a lazy cat, an overfed cat, each will turn into a ruthless hunter at the sight of a nearby bird. So I told my friend not to touch the young bird, and to keep all cats at bay.

She was eventually persuaded that the best thing to do was nothing. But she did check up on gates, and closed them to keep the tigers out. Later, when she went to check, the bird had flown and there was no sign that the tigers had been. She was happy.

The very next morning a young blackbird turned up beside us. I had to practice what I preached, and it must be said that it was very difficult.

One was tempted to interfere, in the interests of the bird of course. One had to be reminded that it was not right to interfere, more harm than good would ensue. One had to remember that the both the Irish Wildlife Conservancy and the RSPB exhort folk to leave young birds alone, for more harm than good could appear if you interfere.

Walking near Lisburn the other day we were struck by the number of blackbirds out and about.

None of them had fallen out of nests, but the birds we saw seemed to be collecting food. This would mean that they had young on the nests. We were also struck by the number of coal tits, and then we came across goldcrests.

The goldcrest is our smallest bird. You could also say that if you cut off the tail of a long tailed tit then that would be our smallest bird. Well, we will settle for the goldcrest. It may be small, but it is a lively wee creature, sometimes even appearing to be cheeky. Or even hostile.

The nest is built at nearly any height, usually in an evergreen tree, and usually suspended from a branch. I have not seen a goldcrest nest too often, but on one particular occasion I got too close to one for comfort.

I did not immediately see the nest, well, it is very small. But the goldcrest surely saw me, decided it did not want me about the place, and scolded and shouted at me. It nearly attacked me!

Well, a less brave person would have been afraid of the little assailant as it shouted and scolded and came extremely close to me.

The goldcrests are very colourful, if small. The plumage is yellow-green, and there is a double wing bar. The male has an orange crest, the female has a yellow one. The young are so small that even if a young bird fell out of the nest chances are you would not see it. Unlike a blackbird!

Coming Events

Saturday 26th June - Wildlife Watch Pun Day at Delamont, details from Wildlife Trust on 4483 0282 Try a boat trip on Lough Erne to view the waders, 2pm, phone RSPB on 90491547 for more.

Saturday 3rd July - Wildflower Event on Oxford Island, 10am, sounds great, contact them on 3832 2205.

Sunday 4th July - At midday, Crawfordsburn Country Park, explore the flowers and butterflies in the meadow, contact 91853621.
Mammal Weekend at Peatlands Park, at 1 pm, phone the Environment folk on 3885 1102

Saturday 24th July - Butterfly Outing to the Umbra, Castlerock, 11am, with Bob Leslie, more information from Butterfly Conservation on 9079 6979.
Open Day at Portmore Lough, more from RSPB on 90491547

Ulster Star