We woke yesterday morning to middle son standing at the foot of the bed looking bleary-eyed and saying "I can hear a bird in my chimney."
F's bedroom is in the old bit of the house and as such he has an old fireplace in his room. It's closed off by a metal plate and the chimney isn't used any more: it's more of a pretty feature than anything else these days. For the last few years the jackdaws have been nesting in the chimney pot on the roof above.
We duly went in to listen and sure enough could hear the tell-tale sounds of a bird scraping and fluttering and crying inside the chimney. Removing the metal plate I was confronted with a huge mess of sticks, moss and assorted nesting materials which must have been gathering there for years. I could hear the poor bird just above it. We pulled the sticks etc out and a pair of bird feet appeared.
Realising he wasn't going to come out through the hole while we were all gawping at it we sat back and waited, and within a few seconds a beautiful jet black and mercifully uninjured jackdaw appeared.
He glanced round the room and made a fast bee-line (bird-line?) for the window and was out before we could get any photographic evidence. His friends, who had been peering down the chimney in alarm wondering why one of their party had suddenly disappeared through the nest, all started shouting for joy when he re-joined them on the chimney pot, and then the whole lot of them took off and flew over to the nearest oak where they landed together and listened intently as he told them in a very loud and excitable voice all about his adventure and how brave he'd been. It was rather sweet and touching.
Later that afternoon L came to find me and announce that Teddy "had got" something in the garden and was playing with it. L thought it might perhaps be a bird, so I rushed outside and discovered Teddy looking pleased with himself and a blind baby rat only just alive wriggling helplessly at his feet.
I'm not a fan of rats on the whole but I can't bear to see any living thing in pain and the blind helplessness of the rat made the whole thing worse. It was injured beyond saving so M dispatched it quickly and cleanly. Teddy then showed us where he'd dug up the nest and M covered it with wire to prevent any further baby-stealing. I hadn't put two and two together about rats nests being underground until I saw it, which is stupid because I've seen the rat holes in the garden. This one was tucked out of the way under the hedge, buried well beneath the surface and snugly lined with moss and fur.
That was that, until much later in the day after we'd said goodnight to the kids and retired to watch the new series of Foyle on the tele. Lying on the floor in the middle of the sitting room was another blind baby rat, this time dead. Teddy was curled up in his basket by the fire regarding us with serious eyes in the way he does when he isn't sure whether he's done something wrong or not.
This is nature and I understand it: I just don't like it when it involves tiny helpless babies who can't defend themselves or protect themselves. Having said that I am glad that thanks to Ted there is one less rat's nest growing up in the garden. The chickens hate them; they get very distressed whenever a rat's around, they steal the eggs and I worry about Wiles disease too. However brutal it is, Ted was doing the job of every good terrier and has probably done us a favour in the long run. I will, however, never get used to baby creatures succumbing to the "red in tooth and claw" thing. It just feels wrong.