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The Swans' Jackdaw

'An enormous amount of excreta for such a tiny creature!'

A few days after returning from our honeymoon (yes, I am now officially Mrs Swan) a fledgling jackdaw descended from heaven and landed at our feet. Quite literally it fell or was pushed from its nest 120ft above our heads, high up in Stoke's church tower. The jackdaw landed on its back at Rob's feet as he was walking our other Jack (ancient and beloved border terrier) for his afternoon constitutional around the graveyard. Unable to leave the bird there in the glare of the hot June sunshine, and seemingly without its parents being aware of its predicament, we did the only thing we could and rescued the little critter. Fortunately though dazed and confused, the jackdaw seems none the worse for its fall.

From the start Rodrigo Esteban Gonzales, as he is now known, asserted his character. We're not sure he's a he – he could be a she, but its hard to tell in one so young – we could use 'they/them' pronouns, but he feels like a he, especially when his intelligent blue eyes look you square in your own and dare you to ignore his demands for food. When hungry he throws his head back with a loud 'chack', and opens his beak, so that whatever food we have to hand (mostly tiny chunks of dog food) go straight down his gullet. For some reason I find this highly amusing and cute, even though when not gaping, he looks incredibly grumpy. Being probably only a couple of weeks old, he seems to feel vulnerable when out of his nest which we made from a shoe box and stuffed with hay – so he clambers into the arms of whoever is feeding him, finding the crook of an elbow to snuggle into. When he did this today, I could feel his heart beating ten to the dozen, but as we sat there, quiet and still, I felt him relax and his heartbeat slow a little.

When I was a child, my best friend Fizzy had a brother called Froggy, and Froggy had a corvid – I think it was a rook, though it could've been a crow. How I envied Froggy whose rook sat on his shoulder and communicated in strange guttural sounds. The rook could do tricks, like fly to the other end of the garden, collect a penny and bring it back, though I recall he wouldn't actually give the shiny penny to Froggy. It was then that my heart was set on having my own corvid, but you can't just order one on the internet. No, you have to wait to be gifted a wild creature. I waited over 50 years until I became a swan, and then there he was – this jackdaw in our midst.

I even remember once saying I wanted a bird that I could stuff down my bra and take everywhere with me – now the saying 'be careful what you wish for' reverberates in my mind because this afternoon, in the warm summer sunshine, I took Rodrigo onto the lawn so he could flap his wings and get a bit of exercise. I set him about six feet away from me, then lay on my stomach, leaning on my elbows to observe him. Still being an infant however, he must have felt quite vulnerable out there in the open, and so, in a few gusty leaps the little bird had hopped down the front of my t-shirt and was worming his way into my bra! It felt like a blessing somehow, though I extricated him fairly swiftly because of his propensity for copious projectile poos, which can occur with only a moment's notice. Fortunately, he does 'back up' – something they must do in the nest so that they don't literally shit on their own doorstep – but if you're not paying attention to this brief reverse movement then you're covered in what can only be described as an enormous amount of excreta for such a tiny creature.

Rodrigo Esteban is a wild bird and ideally we want him to return to his family, who he can hear 120 ft above as his siblings call to their parents for more food. When they chack (apparently the derivation of 'jack' daw), Rodrigo's crest raises and he looks upwards, a memory obviously stirring within. And then he tries to clamber once more into my arms, his fierce talons gripping my finger and I feel honoured that he trusts me enough to come so close. It's important not to anthropomorphise, I know. Scientists would say its not trust, its instinct – but it feels like trust. When he tried to get in my bra, it felt like he trusted that it was a safe place to be. And it is – we've taken this bird to our hearts – literally, in my case! Rob has built him a palatial aviary set in the shade with a little pool for bathing and a felted nest box to keep out the rain. Even if he is only with us for a few weeks, it feels like a blessing on our marriage.

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