It is early evening on the farm, and I decide to go out for a walk round the yard to enjoy the last rays of golden sunshine. “Tak chak chak chak” – as I step out of the kitchen door a wren alarm call grabs my attention.It ricochets around the farmyard. This call usually goes up when one of the farm cats is on the prowl. I scan the yard, and sure enough one of the toms is sitting outside the garage. The din is coming from the hedge behind him. I ‘pssh pssh’ to him but he ignores me, staring hypnotically at something in front of his paws. My heart sinks. I rush towards him and realise he has a bird-a fledgling wren- lying limply between his feet. I scoop the fledgling up and shoo the cat away, but I am too late.
This is a side of nature that I still struggle to comprehend. I can never quite marry the natural ‘predator instinct’ of the farm cats who play so gently with the children, claws sheathed and teeth hidden. We keep them indoors at night and they come out after dawn in an effort to minimise their impact on wild birds, but inevitably there are still casualties.
The parent birds flit into the garage, chattering as they go. I can here an insistent ‘Seep seep’ coming from under our old car.Some tractor parts are stacked against the wall outside, and another ‘seep seep’ comes from behind them. At least two more fledglings for this pair of wrens.
I think Wrens may be my favourite garden bird.They may be common and ‘dull’ but they have such a beautiful effervescent song. Despite weighing as little as 10 grams they manage to produce so much noise you would be forgiven for thinking they were much bigger. In fact they seem to have something of a ‘Napolean complex’, fighting bigger birds for nests. In some instances they will attack adult birds and destroy chicks if they take a shine to a particular site.
After the garage, I carried on down the yard. With any luck the Sparrowhawk might be about, or failing that Mr Phes, the rather loud Pheasant who resides next to the slurry pit. But as I reached the cow housing I heard another insistent’Tak chack chak’ warning coming from the bottom sheds. More wrens. The cat was locked indoors now, so perhaps a fox or another predator was bothering them. I decided to take a closer look. Bit of a dumb move on my behalf as I was wearing flip flops, and the cow sheds are full of manure! Curiosity got the better of me and I picked my way down to the bottom sheds, trying not to slip.
Sure enough, another wren pair making an awful racket…but why. No sign of any predators and the din had started well before I arrived. I peered into the gloomy shed. Where were the fledglings this time? It took a while before my eyes adjusted, and after patiently standing stock still for what seemed like eternity I spotted a fluffy fledgling, puffed up and perched on the railing of the feed passage. Inside the neighbouring shed I found four more of the brood, fluttering about. They moved so quickly, and settled so infrequently, I found it virtually impossible to get any photos. My patience is not what it was, and I soon decided to leave them be. Besides, my choice of footwear had left me in need of a shower so I headed back up to the house.