On the tragic idiocy of blackbirds


When I posted about Queen Margot, the blackbird who thinks the top wrung of a seven foot ladder is a smart place to build a nest, I didn’t envisage the kind of drama we had last night. It was coming up to half past eleven. I was just getting into a new book when I heard the terrible sound of chicks shrieking just under the window. The nest is at the bottom of the garden. I leapt out of bed, grabbed a dressing gown and a pair of espadrilles and ran downstairs.

‘The flashlight’s on the kitchen table,’ husband shouted after me helpfully.

Trixie was sitting in the veranda, nose up to the glass, transfixed. I slung her onto her chair and slipped outside without her following. Could have been because it was raining. The tweeting seemed to be coming from a dozen different places at once. I could see one chick under the table and hear the rest of them crashing about in the undergrowth. Then I saw the cat. One I’ve never seen before, creeping down the wisteria. I yelled at it and it just looked at me. A chick scuttled about a yard from its jaws, but shouting at the cat and waving my arms about was frightening the chicks more than the cat. I went inside for reinforcements. Thankfully Hugh was still up and put on a pair of shoes without a murmur of protest.


The cat was still there, perched on a branch about three feet off the ground, watching the daft birds racing about below. I caught the first chick and we tried to undo the wire barrier we’d threaded around and through the ladder to stop the cats climbing it. The photo doesn’t show the final touch to the cat barrier—a length of chicken wire wrapped around the top to catch any chicks that fell out. Some hope. We’d forgotten these were blackbirds we were dealing with.


Needless to say, in the dark, in the rain, holding a frightened chick, a flashlight and trying to fend off a cat, we couldn’t get the stuff down. So I had to climb over it, Hugh passed me up a chick and I bunged it back in the nest while he caught another one, trying to keep an eye on the cat at the same time.

We spent about half an hour at this lark. Catch chick, pass it up the ladder, put chick in nest, try and catch the one that’s just jumped out. Catch chick, pass up ladder, chick in nest, chick out of nest. The cat just watched. Hugh muttered something about how was it possible blackbirds weren’t extinct. Eventually we got all four of them back in the nest and I tried to climb down the ladder. It made me think of escaping from Stalag Luft III, what with the chicken wire grapping me from all sides, the flashlight, and the rain of course.

It didn’t work. Trying to get the green trellising stuff back in place so the wretched cat couldn’t walk straight up the ladder, set the chicks into a bird-brained panic and all four of them abandoned ship again. The cat by this time was rubbing its head against Hugh’s leg and Hugh was stroking it and telling it what a nice cat it was. I gave up with the babies and decided getting rid of the cat was the easier option. I was soaked by this time and my espadrilles were full of mud.

So we caught the cat instead, took him through the house, drove Trixie back inside, and put the new cat out the front door. Cat took one look at the unknown street and bolted back inside. Caught cat and took him upstairs to put him out the bedroom window. Husband says, “Oh my God! Do we know that one?” Cat leaves reluctantly via the window. I go and clean up in the bathroom.

I lay awake for ages listening to the chicks chirruping. Don’t know what the cat got up to later, but this morning Margot and her consort were charging about trying to round up their scattered family. Trixie was in position nose to the glass while a chick was doing its damnedest to flutter through the glass into her jaws. She obviously can’t be let out today, but I had to go out to throw something at another cat that was creeping across the shed roof. Those chicks have got to learn to fly today or they’re gonners. I’ll post again with news when and as it comes in.