19 May 2011

Hestia and the baby crow

Yesterday afternoon, I ventured out to the library for my first jaunt on foot after surgery.  The visit went well - my slave son dutifully pulled books from the bottom shelves for me to peruse and soon I had a rucksack stuffed with low-fat cookbooks, books about Making Myself Happy and How to Avoid Procrastination.  I suspect that the making myself happy books will involve ceremonially burning the low fat cookbooks. At some point.  That'll be where the Procrastination book comes in, I expect.

Anyway, as I hobbled back through the front gate, I noticed a large young crow in the front garden.  He was bouncy and noisy as well as big, so I wasn't unduly bothered about him.  Crows are pretty good parents and since I live amongst hundreds of them, I was pretty sure that there were parents hopping around nearby.

When I awoke this morning, he was sitting on the front lawn looking wet and much less perky.  He brightened up as the damp grey morning lengthened into a fairly bright lunch time. calling hungrily for some room service.

I pointed him out to mum.  'I don't like the look of him,' I said. 'And there is no sign of any of the crows paying him any attention or delivering him food.' I watched him flapping around under the bushes like a scruffy black duster.  'Well, do what you feel is right,' said mum, packing up her stuff and getting ready to catch the ferry home after a week of tending to me hand and foot.

'Maybe I should just leave him alone? Feed him? I dunno what to do for the best.'  Juno snapped shut her case and checked again that she had her Jackie Collins packed safely. 'I told you, just do what you feel is right,' she said.

After she had gone, I continued to watch the crow and googled various articles about the pros and cons of feeding fledglings (basically: don't).  But still no adults came near him.  His cries became less frequent.

After lunch, I decided to ignore the internet advice and just listen to my gut and hobbled out to see if I could catch him.  I know.  I can't even bend down to pull on my boots properly, but still thought that I could catch a crow.

He sat quietly on the lawn and let me approach him.  Oh dear, this was not good at all.

I stepped closer and he looked at me with a dark, shining and inquisitive eye.  I figured that if I could just get some water into him, he might perk up.  I knelt on the grass and checked that my trusty syringe had water in it.  A legacy of working for the Veterinary Charity for a decade or so - always have a syringe handy.  And a can of dog food.  And then I reached forward.  And he hopped towards me.  Oh this was SO not good.

Would he let me pick him up?  He would.  I threw a towel over him to stop him from getting upset, but even as I carried him into the house, I knew that he would die.

I carefully placed him into a box and took him into the gloom of the downstairs toilet .  I sat on the loo seat, unwrapped the tea towel from around his silent, black head and gently prised open his beak to squirt a few drops of water into his mouth.  I closed his beak and stroked his throat to encourage him to swallow.

He felt cold.

I put him inside my cardigan.  He barely moved.  I sat there for a while wondering what to do.


Our booze stash is kept next to the downstairs loo so I quickly located a bottle of Whisky.  Grouse.  Seemed appropriate.  By this time I pretty much knew that he was dying - maybe a cat had got at him? or maybe a car had hit him?  I opened his beak again and squirted a measure down.  Nothing.

His eye was still bright, but it no longer blinked.  He was gone.

I sat him on the kitchen table and gently unfolded his wings, marveling at the inky iridescence of his feathers, stroking the soft down of his head and wishing with all my heart that I'd gone out earlier, even just half an hour earlier, to try to help him.

The clock now said 3pm.  Sonshine would be in from school soon.  What to do?  He might never get the chance to be this close to such a beautiful bird again - should I let him unfurl the wings as I had just done? draw his fingers over the ribs of the feathers?  Have another, deeper, conversation about death?

I wrapped the dark and lifeless body as gently as I could in a tea towel and put it into a less than reverential plastic bag.  And put the plastic bag into the swing bin.  Not a very fitting end to such a lovely thing.

Sonshine burst through the door a few minutes later: 'Where's the crow?  Did a cat get him? Have you seen him?'

I  handed him a Wagon Wheel and a glass of diluting juice as he slid onto a seat at the kitchen table.  'Have you seen him, mum?' he repeated.

'Yes,' I replied slowly, treading carefully and truthfully. 'I saw him earlier today - calling for his mum and dad to feed him.'


'And.  They came and fed him and, as far as I know, he has flown into the little wooded area next door, ready to start his Big Adventure out of the nest.'  Part of me was disgusted with myself for taking the easy option and lying about the crow, but the part of me that wants to see my child happy was militantly unrepentant.  There is time enough for death, especially the death of a bird.

'Ah, great - all day I've been wondering whether he's ok.  I can relax now,' he smiled.

'Yes,' I smiled.  'You don't need to worry about him any more.'


  1. :-(

    You have a heart of gold, poor baby crow... At least it was with someone who cared at the end.

  2. you made me cry, darling, and i'm a cold hearted bitch. why is it that in the face of the whole world's brutality, it's the little tale of a seemingly insignificant loss that really chips at the heart a little?

  3. I can tell I'm hormonal - in no other circumstances would I be sitting here crying about a baby crow.

    Bless you for caring though, and for not ruining Sonshine's day.

  4. Ahhh! Ali, that's so sad! Bless you for looking after him. I wouldn't have told Sonshine either, as you say there's enough time for all of that.

    What a beautifully written post, I loved it.

    Please take a picture of the burning of the low cal cookbooks.

    Love you xx

    PS, I miss Margaret on The Apprentice too but I have to say this series has renewed my interest. I went off the boil on the last one.

  5. Oh Ali, that is sad! I have a soft spot for crows, they have such an inquistive and cheeky glint in their eyes and I'd have done exactly the same.
    Good on you for not telling Sonshine, bless him for worrying all day, he's inherited your compassion for animals. xxx

  6. I don't know how you do it Ali, but I felt really sad over the fate of the poor baby crow.

    I've shot rats, blown apart sheep (serious mistake with some artillery shells), obliterated ducks that just would not take a telling and repeatedly poo'd all over our patio, and accidently ripped off the head of a pigeon. I never flinched or even showed am emotion.
    But I felt moved by your telling of the story of the poor little dying baby crow. *sob*

  7. TSB - are you sure you're not about to take your period?

    Vix - I love crows too. I've got a painting of one in the hall and my lovely friend Ruth is painting me another one for further up the stairs.

    Christina - yep, photo of burning low cal cookbooks will be blogged :-)

    Alex - I had a bit of a weep myself when I realised that I was all too late *passes the tissues*

    Polish Chick - you're not hard-hearted; you're soft-hearted, but very well-defended ;-)

    Moti - thank you. I tried m'best but was just tooooooo late.

  8. "TSB - are you sure you're not about to take your period?

    I'm pretty sure, but with the state of my guts and my poor abused and overused bum I'm not too sure.
    I think I've had more mucky fluids passing through me than you would excpect to see in the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River(to quote Kipling)

  9. I'm crying :( You write so beautifully.

    Had a similar thing with a juv. blackbird a few years ago - I buried him in the rose bed and I was howling, not just weeping. I needed the digging to dissipate some of the awful energy. I love people who are kind to animals and children best in all the world, and I think your son is going to be a wonderful man :)

  10. Dear Ali, so sad the baby crow did not make it, but at least his last moments were good ones - being cuddled to your chest and drip fed whisky..the sort of Oliver Reed exit plan. I took a tiny little bird to the Miss Tiggywinkle Animal Rescue Centre miles away once - turned out he was just a bit cold and sleepy, once in the car he warmed up and got very chirpy....have vowed never to kidnap baby birds again..Mr B added to the growing file of evidence that Mrs B has lost the plot...

  11. How sad. Isn't it a shame us grown-ups don't have anyone to lie for us anymore xx


I'd love you to comment, but I get a phenomenal amount of spam comments on here for some reason - so everything is moderated. But only for spam. Any other comment will be posted :-D

Explore the ruined citadel of m'blog: