The Big Rescue

There was a MAJOR drama here on Saturday morning!  I was just having my morning cuppa when my son starting banging at the window and pointing up to the House Martins’ nests just above it.  We knew straight away there was a problem.

All that remained of two House Martin nests

These House Martins are part of the family at this stage, our very “welcome house guests“.  The children get up every morning and check on the nest (by check the nest I mean look up and see if any chicks have their head peeping out or parents flying back and forth).  Anyway, on Saturday something was obviously wrong.  When myself and the hubby got to the door we saw a pile of brown dusty clay on the ground and when we looked up there was nothing left of the two nests we had been monitoring so carefully.  PANIC and DEVASTATION! Was it a natural collapse?  Was it the dreaded Magpies?  There was very little left except this small pile of dust.  While trying to calm the children and work out what had happened we started to look around.  That’s when my hubby spotted him, crouched behind a large plant pot but seemingly healthy and unharmed… one lovely little fledgling!

Our little rescued fledgling!

We were of course delighted to have found him, but now that we had we hadn’t a clue what to do with him and we knew whatever we did, we would have to do it quickly!  So we decided to ring BirdWatch Ireland and seek advice.  The person who answered the call was excellent and obviously used to this kind of thing.  As we had been tracking these birds so much we were able to tell her that this little one was likely close to three weeks old, the age they usually fledge.  She assured us that the nest collapse was very possibly just a natural event (possibly no magpies involved) and that the others might have already fledged.  A little bit of hope, but what were we to do now?

The advice was to put the little one into a small box or container with something to keep it warm and place it as close to the original site of the nest as possible.  Then we had to just walk away and hope that mum and dad would return.  We could see them circling around so we knew there was a chance.  The biggest  problem was that the nests had been built at the apex of a roof of a bungalow with no windowsill nearby to elevate the bird.  
Firstly we placed the bird in a planter with a blanket and the remains of the inner nest material but it was still a very long way away from the original nests.

Temporary dwelling

We remembered that we had an artificial House Martins nest somewhere, bought when we first moved into the house in an attempt to encourage nesting.  With a bit of searching we eventually found it in the shed.  Great… but how were we going to fit it to the wall… and in a hurry?  That’s when hubby realised there was a leftover nail sticking out of the wall near the original nest.  A frantic bit of drilling made a hole in the mounting of the artificial nest then with the help of a short ladder, a lot of stretching and a fair bit of cursing the job was done.  Makeshift but secure!

You can see the marks of the two original nest at the top!
The only thing left after that was to wait, we decided to go out for an hour or two as the sitting around was too difficult!  Two hours later we returned, not feeling too optimistic but to our delight we could see the parents visiting the new nest and apparently feeding the little one who we could hear chirping away.  Three days later and things are still going strong.  We can hear the cheeping and see the parents travelling back and forth to the nest.  This evening hubby and the kids thought they saw a flapping of little wings just over the top of the nest, perhaps little Lucky (well what else could we call him?) is ready to fledge! We shall see tomorrow!

We would like to say a big THANK YOU to BirdWatch Ireland for their quick help and advice!  If you want to follow them just click on the links (Facebook and twitter).

Update 12th July 2013:

I am really glad to report that Lucky is doing very well.  He took his first flight last week and has being going strong ever since.  So well in fact that we see very little of him these days – which is just how it should be.

When we put the “fake” nest up it was a quick and temporary solution… however it seems the House Martins are quite taken with it.  As you can see from the photo, the nest is supposed to sit just under a horizontal eave, but we did not have that option when we put up the nest.  The house martins are filling in the gaps and adding their own extension and roof.  All this sounds really positive for the preparation of a second brood, we only hope that they are not planning to roof it all the way to the point of our roof, that kind of extension would never get planning permission or approval!

“Lucky” planning another flight now that he has “found his wings”… can you see the mud extension being added by the parents?


Science blogger and writer; Owner of Dr. How's Science Wows; Mother of three junior scientists who have taught me that to be a great scientist you need to look at life through the eyes of a child!