I was walking home around eight-o-clock when I passed a small bird on the pavement, a baby sparrow I think. It was hopping around awkwardly. So I was concerned about this, but not sure what to do.
There didn't seem to be any trees around, or gardens, I wasn't sure where it could have come from. It was cowering on the pavement, looking unhappy.
I didn't want to pick it up, for two reasons. One, I had an idea that picking up a young bird is not a good thing to do, for the health of the bird. Two, I was nervous it might peck me and give me some incurable bird disease.
So after a few minutes dithering I phoned up the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) but this wasn't so easy because I had to call directory enquiries and then I knew I didn't have much credit on my phone. I got through to the RSPCA helpline, but this again was quite complicated. It was all 'press button one for this, and button two for that, and button three…' Finally there was an option for wild animals in distress and the automated helpline said if you found a young bird you should leave it alone, because it was probably a fledgling which had hopped out the nest, and it's parents were still looking after it. It would be able to fly in a day or two.
I wasn't very convinced about this - I could't see any sort of place it might have come from so I wasn't sure how its parents would find it. But I wandered home anyway, feeling quite gloomy about the bird, and thinking I should have been able to do something better. (This is all in the context that I am a hopelessly disorganised and inefficient person at everything.)
Once home I looked at the RSPCA website, which again told me that fledgling birds should be left alone. But it did also say that they might need help if they were injured. And if they were in an exposed position, like not in a garden, for instance, they might need put up on a ledge, out of the way of cats.
Well, by now I was confused. This bird did seem like a fledgling, fresh out the nest, but it had also seemed a bit injured. Or maybe it wasn't injured, maybe it was just distressed because it was on the pavement. I had no idea, really.
The advice line was just an endless stream of number options, giving pre-recorded advice. So I decided to phone the other line, which is the animal cruelty line (Though this didn't seem quite right, as I wasn't actually reporting any cruelty). This line gave more options, which included a message saying that they get many calls about young birds that have left their nests but are fine really. So I was a bit put off, and thought I'd probably be wasting everyone's time with my phone call. But I persevered anyway, because by now I was feeling very gloomy about the little bird on the pavement.
Finally I got to a place on the phone where I could report a wild animal in distress, and the RSPCA will send out an inspector to look. But among the myriad of phone options, it tells you that you can't report this unless you can actually see the distressed animal at that moment. Because, said the phone line automated service, they waste lots of time sending inspectors to check on distressed wild animals that turn out not to be there any more.
Well, I can understand this. The RSPCA is a charity, they don't have endless resources, in fact I imagine they are hard-pressed to do their job at all.
So I could only report this bird in trouble if I could actually see it. I took a note of the number, ate a biscuit because I was hungry, and walked back up the road, thinking that if I saw the bird again, I could phone the RSPCA back and report it.
However, when I arrived there, which was about half an hour since I'd first been there, the little bird was gone. I had a good look round but there was no sign of it.
There was a wooden fence above where the bird had been, and above that a sort of concealed hedge, from the garden beyond. I wondered if the parent birds might have rescued the fledgling. But I didn't see how, I don't think parent birds could pick up one of their offspring when it's grown that much. There were also some gaps in the fence I hadn't noticed before. Maybe it had gone through one of them, and was safe in a garden.
Hmm. I sort of doubt it. I think it's more likely a cat ate it, or maybe one of the many urban foxes there are around here.
So I walked home feeling very gloomy about all this, and am still quite depressed. Had I been more organised, and not for instance the sort of person who is worried about catching diseases from wild animals - and in fact is quite nervous about animals when it comes right down to it - I'm sure I could have done more. I could have picked the bird up, and looked after it till I took it to a vet or something. So I'm feeling rather a failure about all this at the moment.