I have a new exercise for you on Sentence Structure. It is number 10 on this page
I got a lot of reaction to my story about the intelligent dog. Thank you, everybody.
Here is a true story about birds sent in by one subscriber from England.
My daughter is a writer. She lives at street level, in a basement, from which she can see the feet of passers by. One day she was sitting at her desk, writing about the travails of teenage romance – Lola and Mathieu alone in a boat on a choppy sea – when she heard a ghastly shrieking sound coming from outside her window. She wanted a cigarette break anyway, so ventured out and up to the pavement outside, to try and find out what was happening.
Immediately the screeching redoubled in volume and an enormous bird, beak outstretched, swooped past her, almost touching her face. At the same moment she noticed by the railings two tiny bundles of fluff: a pair of nestlings, fallen from one of the high trees that border the road, and beyond them, under the nearest parked car, the staring eyes of our local moggy, luminous with intent.
It is an old wives’ tale to think that you should not touch a baby bird in case the scent of your hand frightens its parents away. Actually the best thing to do with a fledgling, that is a baby bird well covered in feathers, is to put it in a place of safety where its parents can continue to feed it. Its cries will alert its parents to where it’s been hidden. But where on a London pavement, in the heart of cat territory, could she conceal a couple of flightless baby birds?
To guard against the cat my daughter stayed near, smoking her cigarette. But the frantic mother started to dive bomb her, so that in the end my daughter was forced to fetch an umbrella to open above her head to protect her eyes…
Finally, seeing there was no way to help the birds, apart from shoo away the cat, my daughter returned to her desk. An hour later the mother bird, too, gave up and flew away. At that point what else was there for my daughter to do but find a big cardboard box and bring the two birds in?
Frantic searching on the internet for information on bird nutrition, lead to calls to a dog owning neighbour and that night two hungry birds had their first taste of best dog biscuits, soaked in warm water, kindly donated by Alfie, the German Shepherd dog, and his helpful owner.
The birds did surprisingly well on this diet until thy found they preferred scraps from chicken carcasses, donated by the local butcher. A very large cage was successfully bought at auction from ebay – auction tip: don’t let anyone know you are there, put your offer in right at the last moment- and cage and contents were installed by my daughter in her absent brother’s bedroom. By day the birds were allowed to fly around the room, with us mopping up the inevitable little white blobs, and at night they were caught and put to bed, a blanket over the cage signalling time for sleep.
I don’t know how it’s done in the wild, but in the bedroom the birds were given flying lessons and encouraged to “Just try and get as far as the bed”. Mostly they plopped down onto the floor, or fell behind a cushion, but eventually they were airborne for longer than a second and indeed became almost impossible to catch each night!
Finally when my son and his girlfriend returned from holiday, in the interests of their love life, it was time for the birds to vacate the bedroom. For a while all four, humans and birds, managed to share the one small basement room but eventually the RSPCA agreed to take the birds to a wild life sanctuary, from where, some months later, they were repatriated into the wild.
Birds of the Corvus family, like these two jays, are highly intelligent and can live for up to fifteen years in captivity, as compared to an average two or three years in the wild. But our two birds would perch on the top of their cage, staring out of the window. We wanted them, for however short a time, to fly free.
Until the next time.