One spring, a few years ago, our postman Tom brought to me a song thrush fledgling that he had found on the ground while delivering letters in a nearby street. The trees at that property were being cut down by tree surgeons, despite it being spring, and they unlawfully destroyed a nest in the process. The little bird was hungry and this was a priority. I made him a nest in a top drawer in a chest while my daughter rushed to a garden centre and brought a willow teepee, tall and roomy, and much more suitable than an’ unfriendly’ cage would have been. It also seemed a good name for the fledgling. From the very start Teepee had shown tenacity and a strong will to live. He ate with gusto and treated me as a long-unseen kind aunt, not even twice removed. There were no barriers between me, a human, and him, a little bird. He simply saw me as another creature; whether he saw himself as a bird wasn’t clear as he was accepting and trusting. I couldn’t help wishing that we humans could be inclined in the same way.
Tepee grew and soon the willow house wasn’t suitable even for the nights. During the day he would perch on my shoulder or on any vantage point in the house. I wrote a little news article for the local paper and within hours a kind young couple arrived with a large aviary, which they installed in my back garden. Teepee was delighted as the aviary had various layers and he could move around from his ‘bedroom’ to his ‘sitting room’ at will. But within a few hours of the first day, problems had arisen. I feed a large number of different birds in my garden, and I thought that Teepee would like their company, and that it would encourage him to try to practise flying. Instead he was petrified of the squawking birds and the sometime passing neighbour’s cat. His calls for help made me get a passer-by to give me a hand and move the aviary next to the kitchen door, always open in summer, its back against the house. He could see me all the time and from then on we established a religiously observed daily ritual, provided the weather was good.
At midday he would sit on my hand or my shoulder and we would have a tour of the garden, stopping here and there to admire the flowers or his own reflection in the mirror. There would be flying exercises and finally, we would stop by the south side of the house that was drenched in full sun and have 15 minutes of sunbathing. This was Teepee’s favorite moment; sitting snuggly in the palm of my hand he would open his wings wide and allow the warmth of the sun to fully envelop him. Propped up by the wall, I would savour this moment too. The bliss! After the tour we would have a snack in the kitchen and by then tired Teepee would happily settle in his bed in the aviary. At night he would always sleep in the kitchen, feeling safe and close to me.
By autumn he was flying around the house and soon he would be gone, or so I thought, but Teepee had other ideas. He wintered at home and only the arrival of spring persuaded him to check out the neighbourhood. He had obviously found a mate but would visit daily. Coming into the kitchen I would be greeted by the soft cooing of a beautiful song thrush perched on the back of the chair. Any repair man working in the kitchen would find me in another room to tell me with amazement: “You have a bird sitting in the open window!” I assured him that indeed I knew. I could have told him about the blackbird that I knew a few years back, who would come in the early morning through the cat flap, to check on the progress of breakfast preparation, but that was another story.
Here is the famous song thrush song: