I very nearly didn't go out today, but I am now so glad that I did........
After a very busy hectic week at work, I really craved a visit to Cranford Park. My first port of call there was my new favourite place, the stone bridge. As mentioned two weeks ago, I keep seeing the Kingfishers perched near here, and today I saw one of them again. Crap photos as the bird was still some distance away, but nice to see they are still active.
Also from the stone bridge I saw a pair of Black Caps and this ChiffChaff, which decided to have a bath in the river by balancing on the green weeds just like the family of Blue Tits did on my last visit two weeks ago.
Sue and Jasper turned up not long after that and we were chatting by the bridge when we saw a bloke emerge from the copse with something perched on his hand. We stopped him, and discovered to our complete shock that he was carrying a juvenile Hobby.......
After questioning him in some detail, it emerged that he had found the young bird on the floor in the woods over ten days ago. But instead of seeking help or guidance, he simply picked the bird up and took it home. For the last ten days it's been living in his bedroom and been fed on bits of kidney and chicken. He claimed he thought it was a parrot when he found it and he fully intended to keep it as a pet.
Well Sue and I soon put him straight. We told him he was breaking the law and I asked him to hand the bird over so we could take it to be assessed by experts. It took some convincing, and he was only really happy to hand it over after I said I would call the police if he didn't, and after I'd given him one of my blog cards with my email address on it. I told him to contact me later and I would let him know what had become of the bird. Even when I eventually had the Hobby safely in my hands, the bloke kept insisting he was an animal lover, yet when we asked him why he hadn't at least taken the bird to a Vet, he claimed he didn't know what a Vet was. He started to follow us as we made our way to Sues car then appeared to change his mind and walked away.
The young Hobby felt thin in my hands, and I could feel its breastbone. I could also feel nothing in its crop so I'm not sure when it last ate. It was also incredibly docile, and showed absolutely no fear. I didn't want to risk the poor bird attempting to fly off and hurt itself, so instead of letting it perch on my hand, as the bloke had, I gently cupped it.
Near to Cranford Park is a vets that has links to Heathrow Owls owned by Terry, so we took it there to be assessed. The whole time we were talking to the veterinary nurse, the bird just perched on the counter. It made no attempt to fly off or even walk around, but thankfully its eyesight and hearing appeared ok and it was looking around and was very interested in the noise I was making whilst tapping out a message on my phone.
The helpful nurse contacted Terry who mentioned the words that I had feared were coming.......the bird is now too humanised to ever be released back into the wild. The bloke that found it may have kept it alive for the last ten days but by keeping it in his bedroom the poor bird has become imprinted.
Imprinting refers to a critical period of time early in an animal’s life when it forms attachments and develops a concept of its own identity. Birds and mammals are born with a pre-programmed drive to imprint onto their mother. Imprinting provides animals with information about who they are and determines who they will find attractive when they reach adulthood.
Terry will be picking up the Hobby from the vets tonight, and will then start the difficult process of finding a sanctuary that will care for it for the rest of its life. He has promised to keep me posted.
Before Sue and I left the vets, we really wanted to see it eat. It was far too thin for my liking. The nurse defrosted a couple of chicks, and we put the Hobby in to a holding cage with some water and the food. Within seconds the Hobby had walked across the cage and started feeding itself.
Strangely it had no problems at all in feeding itself, which makes me wonder if the bloke that found it was actually telling the truth. Because Sue and I were so concerned about the bird, I failed to get the blokes details. We just wanted to get the bird away from the bloke as soon as possible and get it looked at. It will be interesting to see if the bloke does contact me later tonight.......
Sue and I left the vets and drove back to the park in what I can only describe as a split mood. We were very happy that we had seen the bird eat, and that it appeared healthy, but also a little sad that this gorgeous bird will never be free in the wild.
We were also amazed that we now had proof that not only do Little Owls, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels breed at Cranford Park, but that Hobbys do too.
We decided to take a walk through the woods, just to see if we could locate a nest but to no avail. The bloke had been quite vague when describing where he had found the young Hobby, and with hindsight we maybe should have insisted he shown us, but as mentioned before, at that time after getting over the shock of seeing this man walking out of the copse with a juvenile Hobby on his hand, that Hobby was our main priority and we had to seek assistance for it.
There were plenty of butterflies and a nice Common Hawker to watch though.
We checked on our resident Kestrel family and could only find three of the five birds flying around the meadow grassland. They are no where near as showy as they have been in the previous weeks so it looks as if the juveniles are finally becoming wary of humans and have started to move on and find new territories of their own.
This one was hiding in a tree....
Eventually we wandered back to the stone bridge to look for the Kingfishers. After a short while of hanging around, it wasn't a Kingfisher that caught our attention, it was a stunning solo Spotted Flycatcher. This is a first for both of us at Cranford Park, though I know Tony James has seen on here before and both Sue and I have seen them at nearby Lake Farm.
It may look like a boring little brown job, but these little birds don't live in the UK all year round. They actually spend their winter in Africa, and return to the UK in the spring, coincidentally just like the Hobby. You can only imagine how many miles these birds fly each year.
So here's a complete over load of Spotted Fly photos as there is no way of knowing when I will see one again.......
All in all, it was quite an incredible day. The close encounter with the Hobby was very much bitter sweet, and the sighting of the Spotted Flycatcher was a bonus.
So as always when Jasper the bird-dog has been out with us, my blog post finishes with a photo of him.