Since M told me of her presence in the garden a couple of days ago I have been assiduously watching Teddy on his trips outside to ensure he does not kill the Blackbirds' Child.
Imagine my horror this afternoon when, whilst working on the computer which is located in the study which in turn looks out over the back garden, I heard the most terrible bird distress calls and looking out of the window saw three adult blackbirds repeatedly dive bombing a magpie who was tossing something small and fluffy around on the ground.
I leapt out of the chair, skidded through the house, wrenched open the back door and tore up the garden path, waving my arms and yelling at the top of my voice. The magpie and the blackbirds scattered, although the blackbirds only went as far as the beech hedge.
When I reached the apple tree my worst fears were confirmed and I saw that the small fluffy thing was indeed the Blackbirds' Child. She'd been dragged from the hedge where she'd been being gently introduced to the world outside her nest these last two or three days, and pulled into the risk-filled open space of the garden.
I fell to my knees and put my hands around her, gently sitting her upright, and all the time she gasped for breath and flopped over in my hands and I knew I was too late. She died within seconds of me reaching her, her poor parents calling their distress, but softly now, from the beech hedge.
I said a blessing and left her out in the open so they could come down and see her and know that she was gone.
All that hard work, all that nest building and egg sitting and collecting of worms, all that tender care, keeping an eye on her when they brought her to the garden to learn about the world, feeding her, protecting her, showing her how big birds take care of themselves, all of it gone in a few ugly seconds at the hands of a magpie who almost never ventures into the garden.
I know this is nature. I know this is how it works. But I will never lose that sense of helplessness that comes when a small injured creature dies gasping for breath in my hands.