This is the story of a Redstart called George. A little chick that didn’t live long but made a mark on my heart.
A Redstart Called George
The Enticing Hole
We noticed that a pair of Common Redstarts had taken over a big hole in the wall between some bricks on the side of of our house. Given all the coming and going we assumed they had a nest in there. We left them to it, with the intention of filling the hole when the breeding season was over. At least they brought it to our attention.
Chicks Falling From The Nest
A couple of weeks had passed since we saw the birds using the hole.Then one day I found a newly hatched chick that had fallen out of the hole. It died instantly (10 foot/3 meter drop onto a hard floor). We put some foam padding on the floor in case that happened again. That was just as well as then there was another one that fell out. This one fell out three times and we kept putting it back in the hole.
The hole is really difficult to get to, under the eaves of the roof and impossible to access to have sight of what is going on in there. We came up with a folded piece of card that we could insert into the hole and then carefully turn over to leave the baby in what we hoped was the vicinity of the nest. The final time he fell out he was dead. Although we had an endoscopic camera we could use to look in the hole, we chose not to do that at that time because we didn’t want to cause the parent birds to abandon the nest.
We read that if they have a big brood the parents can eject some of the newly hatched chicks in order to focus on the others. We couldn’t see any other obvious reason why these babies had fallen out of what was presumably a nest inside this hole. The only other possible culprit we could think of was a cuckoo but they wouldn’t have fit inside the hole to lay the eggs!
The next day we were off again! After putting one little chap back in the nest twice we phoned the wildlife rescue center down at Lago Trasimeno (LIPU). The lady I spoke to said we had been doing absolutely the right thing by putting the babies back. She confirmed the parents can sometimes eject chicks if all the eggs hatch. She said we were also doing the right thing with the method of ‘reinsertion’. But as I was talking to her he fell out again and she said to just put him back in the nest which we did.
A couple of hours later, you guessed it, there he was on the floor again. I called him George, as you do because by now I was getting attached to the little thing.
Getting Help For George
Making A Transport Box
I said to Barnet Boy that there was no way I was putting George back in the nest again. So I made a little box into a safe space with air holes and warm padding and popped George inside.
Taking George To The Wildlife Rescue
We drove down to the lake to the bird rescue center. It was the journey from hell for BB, as he drove while I gave George a pep talk on how strong he was and how he was going to make it and grow up and have babies but not have nests in stupid places. There was a banging noise which might have been BB’s head on the steering wheel.
George Was Well Looked After
On arrival, the volunteer there immediately took George in and started feeding him. She worked in another room but I could see what she was doing through the glass.
She said she thought he would die as his tummy was swollen which probably meant internal injuries from the falls. But he would now be put in an incubator to keep warm and would be well looked after.
Did George Survive?
The next day he was thriving. She said that, if George survives, when he was due to be released they would do it here at the house where he was born. But that was a long way off.
George was still alive the next day and had been seen by the vet who said it was touch and go and he would still probably die. But a girl can hope can’t she? I phoned to check after three days and he was still alive but they didn’t know how. I started to get my hopes up that he might make it. But they were dashed when I got a message on the fourth day to say George had died. Although I had been expecting it, I was upset. It was a lovely thought that he might return and be released here but it was not to be.
What Happened To The Nest?
We had seen no bird activity for a couple of days at that point so we weren’t sure if the nest had been abandoned. We decided to risk using the endoscopic camera to see what was going on. The nest was quite a way back in the hole and that we had been close with the chicks we had put back in. BB was in charge of the endoscope, standing precariously on a ladder. I was watching the video from the ground below. I was just about to say there was nothing in there when two little heads popped out and beaks started opening and closing for food. So we quickly withdrew!
One observation from looking in the hole. There was no way that I could see that those little chicks, hardly able to move, got out of the nest and made their way to edge of the hole and fall out.
Two weeks after we initially rescued George, the Redstart pair are still backwards and forwards to the nest. Our guess is that the chicks should have fledged but this is not a good time to check the nest as the little birds could leave the nest too early if we do. We are keeping clear of the area so that the parents can feed the chicks undisturbed. Luckily, the nest is inside a closed terrace so none of our cats can get in there. In another month the birds will start their migration to Africa.
I was in my studio and thinking how sad it was that George was not going to get grow up and fly around the woodland and have his own family. So I created a simple acrylic sketch of a common Redstart male, representing the spirit of George flying around with his family. A Restart called George. Who wasn’t with us for very long but made his presence felt!
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!