I write this in a room smelling of soot. It's Autumn in the Chilterns, damp and cold. The trees are just beginning to change colour but we don't have a dramatic display, as the woods opposite the house are mainly ash trees. A lot of them have died due to ash dieback, so our Autumn colours aren't as spectacular as some.
It's a perfect day for a fire but last night, I couldn't have one. Something had fallen down the chimney, ending up behind the wood burner. I had no idea what it was or how to get to it. I wasn't even sure if it was alive.
Our chimney is long. Very, very long. It goes up the side of the house, a slender black pipe with a cowl at the top, supposedly to stop things from nesting or getting inside. But something did. I first heard it yesterday, a frantic scuffling near the wood burner itself. Brucie, our black house panther, and Kenya the house wolf, took great interest, heads tilting back and forth, but my searching found nothing. Everything went quiet.
Last night, I kind of forgot about it and lit a fire. Cue more frantic scrabbling! I quickly extinguished the fire, knowing by then that something alive was definitely in the chimney, and I didn't want to be responsible for whatever it was to die a slow, horrible, burny death. Or a smoky one, for that matter. Everything was quiet and I hoped I hadn't done terrible damage to whatever it was, but there was no way of telling. I felt bad for the rest of the evening.
Then this morning, more scrabbling. It was still alive! I still didn't know what it was. My best guess was a bird as our roof is very high, but it could have been a rat or a mouse. As a precaution, I donned sturdy gloves and headed to the chimney to unfasten the bottom of the chimney with my trusty screwdriver. I was prepared to get covered in soot, but a rescue is a rescue, right?
Turns out, that was unnecessary. Two bright eyes stared out at me. A sharp beak, iridescent feathers. A starling had managed to get actually inside the wood burner and was flapping around amongst the ash and charcoal, understandably terrified. The poor thing was a mess, but at least I could easily get to it.
Meanwhile, Brucie and Kenya lounged around, feigning boredom as I reached for the bird. Birdy panicked and flew out into the kitchen, scattering soot everywhere as it went. Brucie leapt into action and was ready by the window as the starling made its bid for freedom. Stupidly, I hadn't opened the window in anticipation and with a loud BONK, the bird fell to the ground, only to be snatched up in Brucie's razor sharp teeth before I could even turn around.
Kenya to the rescue! I think she wanted the starling herself, but she dived on top of Brucie, which made her drop the bird. As they scuffled, the opportunist birdy headed for the safest thing they could find, a large palm plant in the corner of the room.
I opened the doors, picked up the traumatised starling and went outside. I fully expected the poor thing to drop sideways, dead from shock.
But then, the most beautiful thing happened. THEY FLEW AWAY. How wonderful that must have felt, after what must have been a terrifying experience. I just hope they don't decide to explore any more chimneys, especially at a time when people are having fires.
I have a mess to clean up, but I don't care. There's nothing like a dramatic rescue to start a Tuesday!
Have you ever rescued anything? I'd love to hear about it. Until next time...
Lady J x