It had now been three months since Sid had entered our lives. During that short space of time, he had tugged on our every heartstring, and lead us along a path of emotional ups and downs. Now, on this cold Winter Saturday night, in the warmth of our flat, it was time to ask and answer some pretty serious questions about his future and make the most heart-wrenching decision of all. When should we release him?
Sid, as per usual, was stood on the roof of his little nest box perch, digesting his mackerel supper, oblivious of the fact that all eyes were upon him, scrutinizing his every move.
Ian, Steve, Jackie and myself spent the evening discussing the pros and cons of Sid’s pending release. Comments were made in an attempt to lighten the mood and remove the worry from our minds. Our thoughts and emotions were pushed from pillar to post, pulled apart in a tug o war between sentimentality, reality, and necessity. After much discussion, a decision was reached. Tomorrow it is then, we all finally agreed.
Sunday, mid-morning, on what must have been the coldest day of the year; with the biting east wind blowing unobstructed across the open water of Chasewater. [a sizeable manmade reservoir, poplar with people and wildlife alike] We stepped out of the car. It was Brass Monkeys weather and then some. I leaned into the back seat of the vehicle, the interior was warm and cosy. I would have loved to have climbed back in, but we had a job to do. We had a Bird to release! Soon, that job would be done and dusted, and we could all get back into the warm. From outside came the sound of stamping feet and words prompting me to get a move on. I reached forward and grabbed the large cardboard box that contained Sid. I was conscientious not to cause him any stress or make him lose his balance. We walked in silence to the water’s edge. The sound of a distant speedboat churning the dark liquid of Chasewater into a milk-white froth as it sped around in a tight figure of eight reached our ears. A Cormorant, disturbed from its preening by the Speedboat, left its perch and flew, its wings lightly touching the surface of the water and its breast dampened by the spray that the wind lifted from off the choppy veneer, to a more secluded position. Great Crested Grebes, in their drab winter plumage, bobbed briefly into view, as the belly of the depression in which they swam quickly rose to become a crest, then sank again. A gaggle of Canada Geese were bobbing their heads boasting about the expertise of their landing in such windy conditions.
I placed the box onto the sand, and slowly, cautiously, one by one, I pulled open the interlocking flaps that had been Sid’s roof. Sounds of feather rubbing the box’s interior, and newspaper being ruffled and trampled under webbed feet indicated Sid’s excitement at being released.
Holding the 4th and final flap, the last barrier between Sid and freedom, I paused. This was it, the time had arrived for us to say farewell to our loveable new friend, Sid. After making eye contact and presenting a faint smile to Ian, Steve and Jackie, I rubbed my watering eyes with the back of my hand, then stood up straight; opening the remaining flap of cardboard as I did so.
The four of us stood a comfortable distance behind the box, looking down into its square interior. Sid blinked as he turned his head from side to side, it was as if he were looking at our faces one last time. We held our breaths in anticipation of the impending flurry of activity to come. But no flurry of activity came, Sid just turned his head backwards 180 degrees and started to preen.
The cold wind was now making itself felt, so this job had to be completed pretty sharpish. I stepped forward and very slowly began to tip the box so that the floor became the wall, and a wall became the new floor. The opening now faced the open water and freedom. Well, that was it, Sid came out of that box, not like a rocket slid on rails as we expected, but more akin to a snail on crutches. He walked out of his means of confinement with all the poise of a Victorian Gentleman exiting a beach hut, then gingerly, slowly, he walked toward the water. We half expected him to stop and test the temperature of his new oversized bath with the tip of his toes, but no, our loveable friend continued, undaunted, until afloat. And what did he do? Bathed, that’s what; dipping and plunging his head underwater, splashing, preening, followed by more plunging of the head, and so it went on.
We couldn’t walk away and leave him to it, we had to watch out for him, make sure that he came to no harm as he settled into his new environment.
Our teeth chattered with the cold, the wind grew stronger and stiffer, but we were determined to see this through.
Sid, now politely referred to as that bird, bathed for two hours solid. Two hours!
We were freezing, but we stayed and watched. During these two windy hours of bathing, Sid had drifted out of our reach, into open water. Now, just as the Grebes were only visible on and off, so was Sid.
Our attention had been so focused on watching Sid that had it not been for the increased droning roar of the engine we wouldn’t have noticed the approaching Speedboat. It was making a Bee-line straight for us. The Helmsman was going to give his two windswept passengers a ride to remember, and us, his audience, a show we’d never forget. He pulled back the throttle, sprays of white water arced out from its bow, its fibreglass belly slapped the water with a thunderous thud. We waved our arms to attract the Helmsman’s attention, we pointed with stabbing fingers at Sid. We were shouting frantically for him to open his eyes and change course.
Smack bang in the middle of all this commotion was little Sid, still bathing.
The shouting and arm-waving stopped, open-mouthed we watched in horror.
Sid didn’t flinch a muscle, he didn’t have time to. The Speed boat veered sharp left meters in front of him. The stern lowered in the water, and the propellers churned the water into a hectic turmoil as the Helmsman levered back the throttle for more power. It departed, the noise lessened, and calmness returned. Only the smell of its exhaust and settling wake remained, and in that settling wake was Sid; no longer bathing.
The incident had startled him into action, his wings slapped the diminishing wake, and his feet paddled and pushed the air as he attempted to get airborne. We willed him on, encouraging him to dig deeper, deeper than he’d dug before, and he dug. We feared that a combination of muscle fatigue and water-logged feathers would bring him down, but he pushed and pushed until his feet no longer left concentric ripples on the surface and his wingtips only beat the air.
He’d made it! He was airborne!
I watched Sid glide the length of Chasewater and land safely on the North Shore amongst a small Colony of Gulls. I watched him until the weight of my binoculars made my arms ache, and I could no longer identify Sid from the Gulls around him.
Sid had returned to his world, we turned and went back to ours.
Farewell, Sid.

Thank you to the Photographers for taking the pics – and thank you for reading.

Sid’s Manor

Woottons court – a leafy cul de sac, tucked away just off Cannock’s busy town-centre, a capillary leading to Sid’s Gaf. It was here that Jackie and myself once resided. Initially, I bought the one-bedroom apartment on the advice of my mother; when I was footloose and fancy-free. It was a typical bachelor pad; furnished with deep guardsman red Axminster shagpile carpet, soft, black, hand made Italian leather sofas, and a glass-topped coffee table on which to place our Nik-naks.
Our neighbours were mainly young professionals, who, after a day’s work, also enjoyed the peace and quiet offered by this much sort after location.
For weeks no one was aware that Sid had moved in. Life went on as usual. People passed each other, either on the carpark or in the stairwell. They gave the nod, and a glance to each other then went about there business.
Sid The Seagull was by now firing on all cylinders. He could stand up, preen and even walk about a little. It was a real joy to watch him.
Every Saturday night, we were visited by two very close friends, Ian and Steve, both of whom were keen birders. They had enjoyed witnessing Sid’s remarkable recovery, preferring to watch him rather than whatever was on the tele. I can’t remember exactly who suggested it, but someone pointed out that Sid needed a perching post. All that We had to hand, in the boot of the car, was an old weathered nest box. Jack went and fetched it. We watched as she placed it on the newspaper next to Sid’s nest of towels. We chuckled at how Sid stopped preening, and in the same moment moved cautiously to the side, and then, with a stern, concerned, what’s going on here look on his face, he went into pecking mode and had a go at Jack’s hands. His pecks were single stabs, aimed beak butts; they were totally harmless unless he caught the skin, then it was like being given a sharp pinch. Jack was having none of it, she grabbed Sid in her special double overhanded gull-grip. Sid wriggled and squirmed, his head twisted from side to side searching out Jack’s hands so that he could give them a peck and a pinch. His toes were stretched to their fullest, showing the entire span of his webbed feet; as his spindly, pink legs frantically kicked the air. Jack plonked Sid onto his new perching post, then released her grip. Sid shook himself, ruffling all his feathers, dislodging a few bits of white feathery down that sank slowly past his snow-white body, some landing on the newspaper, some on the carpet. I’m sure that if he could talk, he’d have said, maybe in a Cockney accent, watch it! Watch it! Try that again, and I’ll have you.
Bath time. By now, Sid was familiar with the sound of running water – he only had to hear the toilet flush or the kettle being filled, and he was off. He would jump from his post, then with his wings raised and outstretched for balance, he would do a sort of side-ways bound across the living room along the short hallway into the bathroom. There Sid would stand, on the side of the bathtub, waiting, turning his head excitedly, anticipating the dip to come. It was during this procedure that we got a scale of just how big he was. What an impressive wingspan! 1.4 metres.
Of course, we couldn’t disappoint the chap; we had to run him a bath. Amazingly, he knew how deep the water had to be before he plunged in; it seemed as soon as it was deep enough Sid got the green light; go for it! Wild horses couldn’t hold him back, he was straight in there. He used to pace excitedly along the edge of the bath looking down and stretching his neck in an attempt to get his head under the running tap. It was more than likely his over-enthusiasm that caused him to overbalance and topple in. He floated like a cork. After the briefest of submersions, he’d pop back onto the surface, and preen his breast and mantle; while paddling his feet, propelling himself along the length of the bath.
After his initial, sometimes over-enthusiastic burst, which lasted up to half an hour, he’d just float, drift, with the occasional paddle to alter his position. Jackie, Ian, Steve and myself used this time to chat amongst ourselves, occasionally looking in on Sid if things went quiet or there was any excessive splashing.
On average, Sid liked to spend about two hours in the tub. After which Jack would go into the bathroom and lift him out and return him to his perching post. It was as if Sid was preparing for the local Seagull Of The Century competition, she would have to plug in the hair drier and give Sid a gentle blow-dry. The gentle flow of warm air rippled his snow-white plumage as he delicately and precisely used his yellow bill to put each feather back in its place. He would even raise a wing, one at a time, from his body so that Jack could direct the airflow under his armpits.
After this three-hour physio stroke groom and manicure session, there was nothing Sid enjoyed more than to settle in and watch Match Of The Day. With a saucer of pilchards in tomato sauce and a few garlic and herb croutons; washed down with a bottle french non-vintage Still Mineral Water. Preferably volcanic filtered. Happy days.
Thanks for reading. Join us again for Sid’s farewell.

Sid The Seagull: UP 1-2 DOWN 1-2

Yippee! Sid could open his eyes! Whenever he detected movement near his position, his eyelids would open, revealing the concentric circles of life. It was as if a Magician’s wand had touched him. To see the pale egg yolk yellow of his iris surrounding the dark brown circle of his pupil that contained my image hushed me into silence and drew a smile. To see him blink, this minuscule movement, broadcast hope.
His eyes had life in them; they glinted, they shone. I’d seen the life fade from eyes, animal and human, before. The light of life fading as if being taken by the spirit to use somewhere else. As it dims, it reminds me of the last trace of orange glow fading from a coiled filament. But what I was experiencing here, for the first time in my life, was that light returning. Sid was void of movement, and couldn’t react by natural means whenever danger threatened by either flying, pecking or struggling; he would telegraph his mood by using his eyes and adopting a rather stern facial expression. Which he did wonderfully well. This stern expression could be interpreted as angry, aggressive, or simply peeved at being disturbed. Whatever it stood for, his appearance and demeanour softened once he realised that it was us.
Overtime, Sid had not only been taking on water but also tiny bite-sized pieces of tinned mackerel. These were carefully placed one at a time using Jack’s eyebrow tweezers on the back of his throat. They were the tiniest of pieces; we didn’t want him to choke. Also, because of Sid’s inactivity, a regime of physio had to be introduced. We had to keep the circulation going in his legs. So, Jack would hold him in a two-handed grip around his body, so that should he panic, she could restrain and easily control him. She would keep him above her lap, letting his spindly, weak pink legs dangle in the air. She would lovingly as if amusing a baby lower Sid’s body until the soles of his webbed feet touched her lap, from this position she would playfully, remaining careful, lower Sid’s body then lift it again. My part was to use an index finger under his bill to support his head.
This practice went on and on until eventually, Sid could sit on his nest holding his head upright. So, there he would sit, now able to turn his head and preen his grey mantle. He had a small water bowl that he drank from freely under his own steam and a little dish with a helping of his favourite mackerel in sunflower oil on it. Amongst the many things that Sid enjoyed, his favourite by far was watching Poldark on a Sunday evening. He would indulge in a nibble followed by a nip of water, and then he would preen as if the Queen herself were popping in to join him. Before the titles rolled and the theme music began, Jack had to lift him and his nest onto the settee.
It was while Sid was watching tele that I had my lightbulb moment. I left Sid sat on the settee with Jack; he was getting excited over a cliff-top scene that included Seagulls. I went into our small bathroom and half-filled the bathtub with lukewarm water. When Poldark finished, Jack brought Sid into the bathroom and lowered him into the clear water. Well, I wish you could have seen him; he ducked and bobbed his head under the surface, blobs of silver appeared on his back then rolled down his flanks back into the bath. He shook his head vigorously flicking water up the walls, and making Jack and myself recoil as if it would cause pain. Under the surface, thanks to the clear water, we could see his webbed feet working away to propel and steer him along the length of the bath. To say that he was ecstatic would be an understatement.
Sid finished off his evening with a light blowdry and a pilchard.
I think it was safe to say at this stage that Sid was well on the way to recovery but not entirely out of the woods.

Join us again and find out how we got on with Sid and his 1.4mtr wingspan let loose in a small appartment.

Sid The Seagull part two: Tears

The end of the working day, home at last. I rang the doorbell, Jack, my wife, buzzed me in. I gently shouldered the outside door open and stepped inside the entrance hall; it was a wonderful feeling to leave the cold winter and the hum and din of traffic behind, it felt as if I was stepping from one world into another. At the top of the first flight of stairs, holding the front door of our flat open stood Jack, the light behind her silhouetted her image. That image will stay with me forever; it was an image that radiated warmth and welcome.
Jack watched me climb the dozen or so stairs until I was close enough for her to speak without raising her voice.
“What you got there, sweetheart?” She inquired, referring to the semi-organised assortment of clothes that I was carrying.
“It’s a Gull, a Herring Gull, and it looks as though he needs a little care and attention.”
“Bring him in, let’s have a look at him.”
Still holding the door open, Jack made room for me to pass. Our eyes met, but we didn’t speak, the expressions of concern etched on our faces spoke volumes.
I placed the make-shift bird nest down onto the carpet, in a place where it wasn’t going to get trodden on or accidentally kicked.
Jack, now kneeling in front of Sid’s hastily constructed recovery nest, started to unravel it carefully. Leaning over the arm of the sofa, I watched as Jack gently and caringly peeled back the last piece of the jumper, a sleeve, revealing Sid.
Sid looked the same as he did when last I saw him as if he’d fallen asleep. As if he was dead.
“It’s not looking good, sweetheart. Get me a cup of lukewarm sugar water and a deep spoon, please.” Said Jack.
I did as requested and then watched as Jack dripped a few drops of the sugar water onto Sid’s pink pointed tongue. It was heart-wrenching to see the feeble desperation with which he attempted to lap at the warm, sweet liquid.
Jack changed Sid’s bedding, making sure that he was clean and dry, then every hour she moistened inside of his beak with warm sugar water.
We spent the evening chatting about the moral issues involved with my actions, of which, there were many. The main concern was, were we prolonging the bird’s suffering. No, we weren’t, was the decisive answer. Sid was in that lovely place between life and death; he was beyond feeling any pain, nor did he care if he lived or died. How do I know? Because I’ve been in that beautiful warm place that I now call death’s waiting room! The natural will to survive, to hang onto that last remaining thread of life was now his only hope. Playing God is a role that I wouldn’t put on anyone intentionally or otherwise, but, as we all know, that time eventually comes and confronts us head-on, shredding our principles to pieces, and pulling our emotions from pillar to post. Are we meant to turn our heads, pretend we’ve not noticed, and shy away from deciding to help the helpless, whether it be a bird, dog or human-being? The long and short of the situation is that I interfered with nature; I played God. The consequences of which is, that Sid is now with us. We must give him every chance to live.
Days past, how many, I can’t remember, Sid’s condition remained the same, but we continued the routine of trickling droplets of warm sugar water onto his tongue. Every morning I expected the worse, the inevitable, to discover that that last thread had snapped. But no, his little tongue kept searching out the offered water, his swallowing was getting stronger. And then, one evening, entirely by accident, a small miracle happened!
We were using a small, blue plastic measuring spoon to transfer water from the glass to Sid’s beak. It was an elongated oval shape and held a tablespoon of liquid. Well, Jack held the spoon while I used my thumbnail to open Sid’s beak, but I accidentally dunked the tip of the beak into the water. What happened next amazed us both; there was a visible ripple on the surface of the water, Sid was drinking!
Sid was still panned out, his neck muscles too weak to support his head, which was rested against a fluffy towel.
Jack and I watched as Sid drank, it was a heartwarming moment, that’s for sure. We looked at each others smiling faces; our beaming smiles were broad, broad enough to get crumbs in our ears, broad as a Chesire Cats. Still smiling I looked down at Sid, it looked as though he was sleep drinking; then the drinking stopped, stilling the water’s surface and smoothing the snow-white feathers of Sid’s throat that had moved with each gulp.
The smiles vanished from our faces; Jack removed the tip of Sid’s beak from the spoon; then straightening her back, and looked at me. I looked at her, then we both looked at Sid. Experiencing and sharing the same emotions as each other, we both moistened our eyes with blinks, that prevented the brimming tears from escaping down our cheeks.
Before Jack could fold the towel over Sid’s body, the smiles returned to our faces. I thought that the corners of my mouth were going to meet on the back of my head. Sid had opened his eyes!
High fives didn’t exist back then but had they have done; I’m pretty sure the clap of our meeting palms would have resonated for miles around.
Below are a few recent photos of Jack, with little Smudge, and Kracker her favourite horse.

This is a recent photo of Jack together with little Smudge.Jack, with her little pal Smudge
Jack, doing a butterfly count
Jack, saddling Kracker up, ready for a plod

Part Three of Sid The Seagull will be available soon, stay tuned. Bye for now.

Sid the Seagull. Part one.

I started to write this post as a means of lifting my spirit and perking up my mood. I wasn’t depressed, I was just in one of those melancholy lows, you know the sort, the lows that go hand in hand with crappy weather.
The grey cloud of the January sky sank so low that only the nearest oaks were visible; everything beyond these was hidden by a claustrophobic cloak of depressing, damp mist. The weather really was that crappy. But, since that day, the weather, like my mood, as picked up. Ok, it’s not tropical out there; but the grey sky as lifted enough to give us a little more head-room, and I can see yonder woods. Yipee!
This change in weather conditions also encouraged a Blackbird and a Song Thrush to sing; hearing the songs of these two birds lifted my spirits, but not as high as the thought and memory of Sid lifted them.
As you know, there is no such species as a seagull. But for most of us, seagulls do exist and are a crucial factor in our memories’ of childhood holidays by the sea.
Jackie and I have cared for several sick or injured birds over the years; All are memorable, but Sid stands head and shoulders above all in our hearts and minds, he was a fighter and a character who won the hearts of all who met him.
Unfortunately, I have no photos of Sid, I have only these memories that I would now like to share with you.
Nottingham, England: The very thought of this City conjures up images of evil King John, the Sheriff Of Nottingham, and of course that hooded rascal Robin. But did you know that Nottingham was originally named Snotingham? Apparently so. The original settlement was named after the Saxon Chiefton Snot. It was William The Conqueror who later had the S removed. Centuries later, with the Castle in ruin, the myths and stories of chivalrous goings-on covered by the dust of time, I found myself in Nottingham, delivering a small generator to a customer. I was instructed by my Boss to stay local and collect the generator later that same day.  This arrangement suited me fine because I had my Dad was with me. He loved his days out on the road, and I loved having him with me. He would make bacon sandwiches the night before I picked him up. At the last possible moment, he would add a dash of brown sauce, then wrap them in a bread wrapper. There was something old school, very much Dad, very much home, about this simple offering that made it special. This little parcel of delight would be opened, and the contents, eaten cold later in the morning.
With the generator safely delivered, we found ourselves a quiet spot overlooking the River Trent and parked up. The cold dark water of the Trent flowed slowly through the semi-industrial sprawl of this historical city, Its surface rolled and churned as if simmering. Leafless trees lined the banks, some planted intentionally, others, self-sets, gaining a foothold wherever they could.
Daybreak, although grey and murky, brought detail to our chosen spot. We saw feral Pigeons take to the wing, rising from their roost into leaden grey gloomy sky. A steady passage of Black-Headed Gull’s slowly followed the river’s course, patrolling for food. Two Magpies hopped with intent, amongst the branches of a tree, also searching for food. Their chattering calls were clearly audible. Somewhere distant, unseen by us, a Storm Cock sang.
Unbeknown to us, we were parked next to a children’s play area. At this time of day, at this time of year, the chances of anyone turning up to play were slim, so we made comfy and settled in.
Dad and I sipped at our coffee and tucked into our bacon butties, even cold, they smelt good and tasted even better. We tickle-tackled about all and nothing, generally enjoying the moment and each others company.
There was a large paddling pool to our right,  empty, except for a few puddles of Winter rain, a collection of brown, brittle leaves, and a couple of empty crisp packets. A bitterly cold wind rippled the puddles of water. The leaves and litter, blown by the chilly wind, slid noisily across the turquoise coloured concrete floor as if the dead themselves were blowing them. The two Magpies now hopped and chattered excitedly on the paddling pool wall. In turn, One or the other would occasionally drop from sight, into the empty pool. Something had got their attention. I had to investigate.
I quickly briefed Dad as to what I was up to then exited the Landrover Discovery. Instantly, the bitter wind made my muscles tighten as I felt its rawness on my face. The two Magpies high-tailed it back into the nacked trees, scalding me with raucous calls, and bobbing their long tails in disapproval of my presence. I reached the paddling pool, a dog walker returning to her vehicle, opening the boot for her Springer Spaniel to jump in was the only sign of human life. I looked down into the paddling pool. I saw the body. I bunny-hopped the small wall into the empty pool and crouched next to the lifeless form. It was a Herring Gull! Dead or alive, I didn’t know, but early signs were not encouraging. Using my right hand to support the bird’s body weight and my left hand to support its head and neck I lifted him from the ice-cold puddle. He was colder than a block of ice, his feathers were soggy, and judging by the sharpness of his breast bone he’d been without food for some time. His eyes were closed, I couldn’t feel a heartbeat, he was lifeless. Was I too late? Was he dead? I used my thumbnail to prie open his beak, I needed to see the colour of the inside of his mouth. Had it been a grey/blue colour, this would have indicated shock, but, as it happens, it was pink, dangerously pale, but pink. It was while I was carrying out the preliminary checks that I saw his tongue move in an attempt to swallow. I allowed a few water droplets from my fingertips to enter his mouth. Feebly, his tongue moved in response to the life-giving liquid. He swallowed! He was alive!
Dad had been watching from the Discovery and had already prepared a recovery station using his jacket as the base and an old jumper as the inner wrap. From the sheltered side, I leaned into the Disco (Discovery) and placed the patient carefully onto the nest of soft, warm clothes, and gently wrapped him up.
We spent the rest of the day monitoring the bird, keeping him comfortable, and the bundle to make sure that it didn’t become damp.
We had found Sid.
We made the short journey home to Cannock. It was time to introduce the patient to my dear wife Jackie.
We didn’t live in a large country house with acres of rambling gardens, no, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment just off the town-centre. It was in front of the exterior door of this apartment, holding a bundle containing Sid that I now stood, waiting for Jack to buzz me in.
Well, that’s how we found him. If you are interested to discover more about Sid Watch this space.
Thank’s for reading.

Golden Oriole

A summer visitor to much of central Europe, the Golden Oriole is one of our 3 exotics, the other two being Hoopoe and Roller.

This is not a bird that you’ll see just anywhere in England, you’ll have to visit a recognized breeding site, such as Lakenheath, and even then you are not guaranteed a sighting. What you are guaranteed is a memorable day out.
Everything about the Golden Oriole is enchanting, it’s song, straight from Paradise. It’s plumage, fresh and vibrant that screams Summer’s here, and it’s choice of habitat

You have to plan and do your home-work to see this bird, like a puzzle, all the pieces must come together, if there’s a piece missing it means do it again, and again, and when that final piece clicks into place, it will rate as one of your most memorable life moments.


Despite the bold color of it’s plumage, the Golden Oriole can be extremely difficult to spot, and don’t be surprised if it takes several attempts to get to see it, but when you do drop lucky, the experience will take you to that wonderful place that you call your own.
Come the month of May, leave Winter behind, and take a walk out into the blossom filled spring, see the returning Swallow and listen for the cooing of Turtle Dove, and just when you think that your senses are fully stretched and you can’t handle anymore, along comes the Golden Oriole, the cherry on the cake.