A couple of years ago I got to know a female blackbird very well. And she got to know me. Each day would start with me preparing her some food, usually some home made bread with seed mixed in, or some high energy bird food. I’d go out into the garden and give a little whistle and she’d appear in a few seconds at my feet and have some food. Often times I would be working, digging away, and Mrs B would stay close by waiting for any worm I’d throw her way. And many a time she’d jump right in the hole I was digging to get the worms herself.

Mrs B beauty (1) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

She had made a nest in the shed over a couple of days, so I would go in there as little as possible from then on, and she immediately laid and egg a day for four days.

Blackbird 1 egg (1) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Blackbird 2 eggs (3) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Blackbird 3 eggs (4) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Blackbird 4 eggs (14) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

After about 10 or 12 days the first egg began to hatch

blackbird chicks (2) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

blackbird chicks (1) crop small (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

And after 4 days there were 4 pink chicks that rapidly grew in size. Every 24 hours they looked totally different.

blackbird chicks x 4 small (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Day 4
Blackbirds 4 days (2) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Day 5
Blackbirds 5 days crop (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Day 6
Blackbird chicks 6 days (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Nest full of chicks (2) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Nest full of chicks (1) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Nest full of chicks (7) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Black chicks sleeping (5) small (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Day 8
black chicks 8 days old (2) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

The feeding never stopped, not for a minute.
Mrs B and chicks (1) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

About 14 days after the first egg hatched the chicks began to fledge
Blackbird fledglings 3 (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Each day there would be 1 less chick in the nest
blackbird fledglings small (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Until the nest was empty again
nest empty crop small (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Mrs B then continued to feed the chicks for a few days on the ground. They stayed as hidden as possible much of the time, but soon made their way in the lower branches of trees, and then up and up until they were ready for their maiden flight from one tree to another. They still stayed close to parents, getting help with feeding and hunting and learning what was good to eat and what was not.

Blackbirds (15) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

I learnt the many calls of Mrs B who would call for me if there was ever a predator about so that I could go outside to scare them off. Usually it was a neighbour’s cat. Mrs B would even tap on the kitchen window until I showed up.

Mrs B outside kitchen (2) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

The chicks all grew and over the next few weeks they all went off to find their own feeding and breeding grounds. But they would often return to check things out here, and I am sure that I still get visited by the descendants of Mrs B.

All that Summer Mrs B was my constant companion in the garden and the feeding never stopped and we developed quite the raport. She was so used to me being close by that taking pictures was easy and I could watch her bath and preen.

Mrs Blackbird bathing (19) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

Mrs B preening crop (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).jpg

Mrs B preening (5) (2015_09_28 11_13_35 UTC).JPG

I had never seen such devotion before, and certainly not as close and in as much detail. It was an honour to be a small part of it. Sadly, I don’t think all the chicks made it to adulthood but one can hope. And all too soon I saw things get the better of Mrs B and I was somewhat heart-broken for a while, and still think of her often.

While I think that cats are amazing creatures I also think it is a shame that there are so many of them with owners that don’t care about nature enough to give them collars with bells on. They do an insane amount of damage to the wild bird population of this small country of England.

It is, of course, probably best not to interfere with nature, but if you are going to then it has to be an absolute commitment as once you become a source of food or protection you will become relied upon and it will be to a great detriment should you neglect your duties even for a single day.

But the rewards are immense!

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