Summer visitors on the wing and in the nest – Watch out! Equine escape!

Birdsong accompanies my daily walks to and from the farm, lifting my spirit, making me happy.  This is the season for frantic activity of our little feathered friends as once again, they busy themselves with the cycle of reproduction.

Numbers seem down compared to this time last year when I counted at least four swallows’ nests in the big barn, hidden high in the eves, away from predators.  I spotted them using binoculars and followed progress of the hatchlings through to fledglings only by watching the movements of their parent birds as they flew in and out of the nests with succulent protein for their precious offspring.

This year so far, there’s less than half the number of swallows on the yard and it was by chance that I encountered this nest. “Will you have a look to see if there’s anything inside it?” said one of the girls from the farm. “I don’t want to disturb it if there are eggs inside. We’ll have to use another trailer for the horse shows.” she kindly offered.

Pulling the cupboard out from under the rail, I gingerly clambered up (no mean feat at my age!) and, balancing precariously on the gently swaying (!!) sideways stored cupboard, I popped the specs on and tried to peer into the nest for a closer inspection.

“OWwww!”  Trust me to head butt the only screw protruding from the roof!  In my shock I nearly wobbled off the cupboard!  “Maybe I aught to act my age and not my shoe size!” I inwardly chuntered as, avoiding said screw, I had another bash at looking inside the nest.

I might explain at this point that the side you can see is taken from the doorway, but the other side of the trailer is open, allowing birds free flight of entry.  Still, the nest looked cosy and protected from elements and other would be predators. Neck straining, balanced on my knees, looking like a middle aged yoga enthusiast on speed, I managed to (just) see inside the nest.  There, within the mud construction, lined with bits of straw and tenderly laid feathers, nested a clutch of eggs.  No parent bird around, I quickly took a photo and descended, rapidly, unwilling to disturb the nesting area.  I’ll keep an eye out over the next couple of weeks for signs of hatchlings …. watch this space!

Meanwhile, in my stable barn there has been much activity from a nest carefully concealed on a beam above Bramble’s stall. Going in and out four times each day, my eyes must have been downcast, for it was not until I spotted a blackbird flying in with a beak full of worms, that I saw it. A large fledgling , almost as big as its parents – how could I have missed it!  From a distance, there was nothing to alert to its presence and the birds and fledgling are by instinct completely silent when there is company in the stable, so not to draw unwanted attention.  (if you look carefully at the photo on the left, you’ll see fledgling’s beak underneath’s dad’s bright orange one!)

A couple of days later, here’s the cheeky little fellow,  out of the nest, flapping around Bramble and rosie’s stable, practising instinctive aviation skills, skittering up walls, before crashing down to land, bewildered, on the straw, time after time.

 One morning fledgling stood balanced on the rug frame before toppling off straight into a bucket, stuck until rescued (by me) Another evening and our fine feathered little newby flew at great speed to land on top of the barn door frame, where it stood, teetering on the rim before dropping off to land in a tiny heap on the other side where it stood….yes…bewildered on the floor (rescued by me)

Wearing gloves (of course) I gently picked it up.  Ewww! the unearthly distress squawking chilled me to the marrow and I quickly placed it carefully in its nest, from whence it immediately bobbed out and flew haphazardly around the stable once again, before coming to land on Bramble’s stable wall,  much to Bramble’s chagrin.  

Little fledgling has left the safety of its nesting home and stable now.  I wonder where it’s gone and if it’s ok.  I hope so.  Some evenings, at dusk, a little speckled chested bird sits high up, atop the roof, singing its birdsong, little tweets and twitters filling the air.  I can’t see it clearly, but I fancy it’s our baby blackbird!  Tonight I saw another one in the nest, smaller, fed by the blackbird parents.  How has that happened? Here we go again!  I’ll keep you posted…..

Breaking news! little rosie, my elderly equine, suffering from Cushing’s disease, tottered slowly from field to her stable tonight.  I sighed with sadness as I looked down and saw her head held low, clearly struggling to keep up with Bramble on the short journey.

Misty eyed, I remembered her age and wondered if this could be her last year with me.  With great sorrow, I opened her door and led her into her warm stable, sheltered from today’s intermittent downpours.  Carefully removing her head collar, I bent to inspect the newly bald patches on her flanks, looking for fly bites as she nosed her bucket containing chaff and her medication.  Reaching over for the purple spray, I gently squeezed the bottle, to give protection to the area.

Quick as a flash rosie bolted out of the still opened stable door, skittered along the damp stone corridor and launched herself out into the yard!  I hadn’t thought to close the door behind me with her walking so slowly!

Bramble whinnied a high pitched ‘Me too please!’ and watched, nose peeking over her door, excited by the sudden commotion. Sensing new found freedom, little rosie galloped over the yard, through the still opened gate (doh!) past the cottage (luckily no cars coming up the drive!) towards the grassy lane, leading to her field. 

Cleverly dodging my efforts to keep up with her, she munched mouthfuls of grass, tearing at the green mounds, before side stepping away from me.  Each time I approached, she eyed me carefully, then fled, cheeks bulging, grass spilling out of her overfull mouth!

I attended a veterinary lecture last week on the hazard of grass and its correlation to the dreaded laminitis.  This was the reason my two tiny equines come in every night and are strip fed during the day, and here was my Cushing’s diseased elderly little miniature  horse cramming herself with long luscious wet grass!

Adopting the notion that “You’ll tire before I do!” I patiently waited, gently clucking and coo’ing alongside her until I was close enough to grab her firmly by her mane.  Knowing the game was up, she immediately licked her lips and let herself be harnessed and led gently back to her stall where, door firmly shut, Bramble keeping a close eye on proceedings from the next stable, I said my goodnights.  Little rosie looked up at me as though butter wouldn’t melt.

No carrot for you tonight my equine friend, you little bu…r!