The Tiny Tim Saga
Friday, December 2, 2011

Birds and animals are amazing. We can learn so much from them.

The Tiny Tim and Mary (A Masked-Weaver chick and his/her mother) saga started when I noticed that one of the weaver nests broke apart in the wind.  I could hear a chick tweeting but could not find it.    By watching the behavior of the male, Boytjie, I knew in which vicinity to search.
I looked around but could not see anything.  

My cat, Amber, who is never far from me, jumped forward and looked up at me and then down into one of the low shrubs.
At closer inspection I saw him, a very young, alert fat round little Masked-weaver chick sitting on the ground looking back at us with much interest.   He was too young to know that the cat, or me, could be a threat.

From past experience I know that if I leave the chick to fend for itself, it will die from exposure or become a tasty morsel for a feline prowler; the chick always dies.

I just had to take it in and try to hand-feed it, I thought to myself.

I chose to put it into a small open topped mouse cage instead of into the birdcage.   The chick cannot fly so there was no need for an enclosed cage.   It was a lot easier to get my hands into a cage that is open at the top.   Getting to a chick inside a birdcage is such an 'omslommernis' (nuisance) so I created a nice warm nest inside a padded plastic cup and placed the cup and chick in the cage.
The chick was very quiet. It just sat there with its mouth open.

I mixed some Pronutro, which we keep in the cupboard to feed injured birds, and gave him some until he no longer kept his mouth open then I put a woolly cloth over him and tucked him in for the night

3 December 2011

This morning it was lying so still that I thought it died during the night, but when I touched it, it stirred - still in a deep sleep.
I cleaned the cage and gave him another two feeds of Pronutro. Because I expected visitors, I took his cage from the lounge and put it outside by the undercover braai on top of the music center but under an indoor washing line.

It is a very windy day and since weavers normally have a closed nest I put a cloth over the cage. The little thing never made a sound. I could not tell if it was stressed or comfortable.

While looking out of the kitchen window, I noticed the female weaver on the washing line looking around for her chick that fell from the nest the day before. It so happens that the tree where the nest was is next to the braai.

I then decided to remove the lid and cloth from the cage and returned to the kitchen window to watch what was happening.

The weaver soon returned and it did not take her long to spot her chick. She immediately flew away and came back with an insect in her beak. It took her a while to figure out how to get to the chick She hopped around the cage and jumped back onto the washing line and down again until she found herself above the cage on the line. Puzzle solved, and she jumped into the cage. I herd the response from the chick immediately. She fed the chick and regarded it as the nest from then onwards. She fed the chick about every 15 minutes or so until it fell asleep. Then she would just sit near the chick on the washing line.

My only worry is that the ants may find the cage during the night because of all the Pronutro I spilled in it. I think I shall bring it in tonight and clean the cage and put it out again tomorrow.

Humans can learn a lot about dedication and care for the young from birds and animals.

The thought came to me that without her chick, life must have lost its purpose because she spends all day looking for food and bringing it to the nest.

We still have a long way to go because the little thing has all its feathers but it is very small. Lets hope this one will make it and next-door’s cat does not catch the mother.

I like to name things so I think I shall call them Tiny-Tim and Mary. The male already has a name. We call all male Masked-weavers Boytjie because you cannot tell one male from the other.

It is a bit like how I named my chickens back in the days when I farmed with them. I named them by color. All the white ones were Aggie, the black ones Freda and the red ones Betsie. My friends were very impressed with my ability to remember all their names.

I shall keep you posted about the outcome.
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Before I go further, I need to confess that I am not sure if the chick is a Tim or a Tammy.

Tiny Tim had a bit of a stressful day today.

At first I overslept and the birds were already chirping outside when I realized that the chick is still inside; so I put him out very quickly. He was again fast asleep and I did not know if he was dead or alive. My concern was that Mary would notice that the cage was missing and abandon her chick.

I did not have to wait long for her to arrive with breakfast.

It was a very hot and windless today. The heat was just hanging in the air with no wind to fan it.
The poor chick’s, mostly plastic, mouse cage must have been sweltering hot. The deep plastic bakkie (bowl), which I rigged out to be his temporary nest, must have made everything ten times worst.

At one stage I thought he was going to die from heat. He was sitting on the side of the nest with his mouth open and his head hanging, panting.
I went for the syringe and squirted a bit of water down his neck, which stressed him to the extent that he did not make the right chick sounds when Mary approached with food so she left, thinking he was full.

I exchanged the plastic bakkie with a little utility basket about cup size but when he sat on the side of it, it collapsed. Mary was hesitant to get near the cage, so I removed the basket and put a shallow cat food bowl in the cage at which time Mary attacked my head but, although she attempted to enter the cage about 20 times afterward, she seemed to be scared to get near it.

After much observation, I realized that the cat food bowl is blue and perhaps it is a color she did not like, so I had to disturb the poor chick once again to remove all bowls and replaced it with a simple fluffy white carpet made from some woolly cloth.
The chick managed to jump out of my hand, during the re-furnishing of his cage, and landed on the cement floor then scurried under the fridge.

By the time I managed to get him out from under the fridge it was already 5pm.

I stuck him back in the cage and decided that I was his worst enemy and if Mary still does not feed him it will be back to Pronutro (baby food) tonight.

Mary tried to entice Tiny Tim to leave that unsafe place by flying towards the cage then out to the bushes at first. He tried to follow his mother, but he is still too weak to get to the top of the cage.
To our delight Mary decided to recommence feeding again, she seemed to be content with the new nest arrangement.

I covered the cage with a towel and put it in a quiet room for the night. I hope that I do not oversleep, like this morning, again.

5 December 2011
Tiny Tim survived another night. I put him out at 5.30 after I prodded him to see if he was alive. He looks so dead when he sleeps.

Just prior to writing this report I heard Tiny Tim receiving his breakfast and when I rushed to the door to see if my ears did not deceive me, I was just in time to see Mary on the washing line cleaning her beak after the feed.

Will Tiny Tim manage to leave the mouse cage today? Whatever he does I decided that my role is strictly as an observer. Hands off! No interference. Famous last words?
Signing out for now 06.30am
1619h (Day 2 of captivity)
Tiny Tim left the nest and disappeared in my jungle of a back garden.

We went on some errands and when we returned he was perched at the top rim of the cage, but when we returned he was gone. I did not irrigate the garden today in case I drench him. It is near impossible finding a little bird in my bushy garden. I just hope that he can hop onto low shrubs.

If Mary was not caring for him, I would have placed him in the big cage, but then she would not have been able to get to him in order to feed him.

I believe that nature have, under normal circumstances, ways of sorting out its own problems.

Tiny Tim has a dedicated mamma, so I just closed all the doors and windows of the house, giving him time to adjust to outdoor living.

I do not expect to see him again, but if I do, I shall keep you posted.


6 December
I was standing by the kitchen window yesterday evening when I noticed a tiny thing sitting on the cement floor looking up to where the cage was.

Tiny Tim may have been wondering how he could get back to his adopted nest but from past experience I know he is scared of me because perhaps I hurt him when I caught him.

I asked Hubby to do the honors of catching him this time, a task he performed amazingly without any trouble.   Perhaps he has a more gentle touch with birds.   He seemed to have no difficulty putting the butterfly net over Tiny Tim and lift him back into the cage.   The chick looked exhausted though and I was not sure if he would survive.
It was lovely to know he will be safe for the night at least.   We find so many unfortunate nestlings that died of exposure during the night, after they fell from the nest.

While we were not looking he must have recovered, and out of the cage he went again.
I was looking all over for him and then nearly tramped on him as I walked past his cage.

If he has been hiding in corners all day, I am not sure how much feeding he had.   Because of his stressed state, I decided not to force feed him and started making plans for a nest with higher sides today.   I just hope that Mary will be able to get to him and accept him in the new environment. How much interference will wild birds tolerate?
Suddenly his chances of survival are no longer very good.  If birds stress over a long period them often get ill and die.


6 December 2011

While Tiny Tim was snoozing in his nice warm cage in the spare room, I rigged up the cage, which would have been his abode today.

I used a tall old birdcage and took the bottom off, then turned it upside down. And lined the bottom with some straw and a fluffy sock for a nest.   I also put one low crossbeam in for just in case he did not want to sit on the straw. 
Although he is too small to feed himself, I put some birdseed and water also in the cage.  One never knows with this bird.

I got up at four thirty to put him and his cage out so Mary can find him in the usual spot at daybreak.

When I lifted him from the mouse cage, his little claw got entangled in lining and he was fully awake when I transferred him.  He must have woken with a startle, poor thing.
I placed the cage in the usual spot with Tiny Tim clinging to the side.  So much for the warm-sock-nest where I was hoping he would wake up this morning.

When I went outside to check on him he was sitting on the rim of the cage again, so I took the cage, Tiny Tim and all, and carried it outside to where his nest used to be. (Boytjie, his daddy broke it down long ago and is building a new nest for his next wife.

I lifted the cage as high as I could so he could jump onto the branch.  He did not have much choice in the matter.   It was lovely to watch his reaction from the high branch.

Boytjie thought it was a female coming to check out his new nest and became very excited, flapping his wings and trying to entice Tiny Tim to come and check it out.

That puts another slant on the saga of Tiny Tim.   It may be actually the saga of tiny Tammy.   He may be a she.      For the sake of the unknown, we shall continue to call her-him a he.

Little Tim was sitting there checking out the new environment, yet it must have looked familiar because this is about where his nest was.   His little head was turning in all directions.

Then he spotted Mary and tried to fly towards her but plummeted into the lower branches of the bush with Mary in pursuit. 

Well that is the first and possibly last time that I can record the freedom of Tiny Tim.

From now on I shall not attempt to cage him again.  What is the point?   He will just have to learn how to climb trees until his wings strengthen.


See tiny tim 2


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