What to do with a possibly injured bird of prey.
The scene: a road in Caversham. A bus stop with a clear-walled shelter. A reasonably large bird in the road by the side of it, back to the kerb – indeed, with tail feathers on the path.
My guess is that he had collided with the the bus stop ‘glass’ and was struggling with a stonking headache when I showed up.
Approaching the bird, I thought it would fly away. Not a chance. It just sat there. It looked absolutely fine … not visibly damaged. But what to do? It will be squashed by the next bus that comes along.
Phone a friend. A bit of research. Online advice relayed: pick up the bird in a towel, gently covering it so it feels safe. Place bird in a big enough cardboard box for a couple of hours so it can recover. Then open the box and hope it flies off.
A few problems. I’m a fair way from home. I don’t go out for walks with large cardboard boxes and towels with me. Oh, and it’s a sparrowhawk. Not the biggest bird of prey but big enough and equipped with a sharp-looking beak and talons to match. (I worked out later that it was a male one.)
Get wallet-purse thingy out of pocket. Gently coax bird on to it. Cross road. Coax bird to get on to the verge. He was remarkably docile and compliant. What else can I do …? I could only hope.
Carry on walking in to Caversham. Go back about an hour-and-a-half later. Ree-sult! No bird. No feathers. Nothing. I can only assume he recovered – which is a nice reward for my efforts. Given the increasing rarity of pretty well all birds in Britain, that at least this one will live for a bit longer amplifies the feeling that this was a good outcome. But in the interests of balance, yes, I know – it’s rather likely that any nearby sparrows wouldn’t have been so pleased.
Incidentally, I quickly took just a couple of pictures thinking I might have to send them on to my friend for information. That proved unnecessary. Other than those photos-with-a-purpose, I didn’t want to spend more time faffing about close to the bird than I had to, in case I was scaring it. After all, how can you tell if a bird with concussion is concerned …