Monday, September 14, 2009
Nigel the Seagull
About two years ago we had a visitor to our garden — a seagull with a damaged wing. It arrived with others but could only run along the ground, unable to get lift off. It fed on stuff put out for the birds, so we assumed it did not feel poorly. We wondered if a cat would get it but he was still with us in the morning. So I continued to feed it, hoping its wing would heal or he would adjust to having a droopy wing tip.
I looked out of the window and saw Nigel on the drive on his way to visit a neighbour. I knew he would return and, since he clearly could look after himself, did not worry unduly about their aged cat. BUT what did worry me was seeing another neighbour with air rifle in hand.
I ran outside to stop an unprovoked execution taking place. Our neighbour said that he had been requested to put it our of its misery.
'Nigel is NOT miserable,' I told him. 'He is perfectly happy. He spends most of his time in our garden, feeding, preening and having an occasional go at flying.'
The neighbour no doubt thought he was doing the kindly thing before the bird ended up as a generous portion of cat food.
So Nigel was spared to live another day. Actually about three weeks. He would walk up quite close to be fed, but he got quite choosy over what he would eat. Also, he would look up at the sky when gulls flew over and have regular attempts at lift off — to no avail. His drooping wing held him back.
I saw him dipping his beak in a bucket of water, possibly to drink but it seemed to me he was trying to clean his feathers.
Now what could I do to help?
We have a large plastic bowl shaped as a dog basket, which kept our golden retriever sleeping contentedly for a number of years. Our dog, now in ashes amongst the soil under our Silver birch trees, no longer needed it. Nigel did. I filled it with water up as far as the front cut-out section. A nice little pond to help dear Nigel to cool down, clean his feathers, and, if he so desired, have a little float on. No shortage of drinking water too.
My little friend loved it. He found where I had left it and took to it at once. It was great to see him preening his feathers and splashing around. Several times he would have a go at flying, until he nearly reached the top of the hedge. Then one day, when gulls were flying over, he managed to take off and reach the roof of our house. We did not see him again, although he may well have joined the gulls flying and settling on newly slurry- sprayed fields just up the lane.
My little friend will not be forgotten. I must admit my hubby will not forget him either — he did the washing of slabs and concrete during, and after, our little sewage-outputter (and boy, did he turn it out) left for good.