I should think that your first question is
who or what is TUC, well TUC was a little Sky Lark whose nest I had
been keeping an eye on back in 1969 when I was a 12 year old. The nest
was on the ground as is usual with Sky Larks and close to the edge of
a farmers field. One particular evening after school I went out to
check that everything was ok and that the nest hadn't been targeted by
egg thieves or had met with some other natural disaster only to find
that the nest was partially destroyed. The field had been limed and
the very edge of the nest had been run over breaking two of the four
eggs. This was such a shame because the eggs were ready to hatch but
both remaining eggs were quite cold. Another two weeks and the eggs
would have hatched and the chicks fledged - such a shame.
Was it really to late?
I made the decision to take the
remaining eggs and try to hatch and rear the chicks, there were many
obstacles in the way not least of which was two parents.
carefully wrapped the two eggs and put them in my pocket then set off
for home as fast as I could. Only one egg made it home so all my hopes
now rested on this single egg. I quickly made a small incubator using
a fish tank thermostat and a 15W light bulb to provide the heat. The
egg at this time remained in my pocket, I took the egg out in order to
place it in the incubator and discovered a tiny hole in the egg - was
this egg damaged too?
Well not really, it had started to hatch.
Being an impatient twelve year old I felt I had to help it out of the
egg so very carefully I began taking the tiniest of shell fragments
away using a pair of tweezers. The process went on for well over one
hour and at one stage I thought the chick inside had been terribly
injured by something after seeing some tiny blood vessels in the fluid
surrounding the chick inside the egg.
Once free of the egg I very
carefully placed the chick inside the incubator having first checked
that it wasn't to warm. Later that evening I tried offering the
chick some wholemeal bread crumbs soaked in milk which it ate much to
my surprise. I have since learned that this was completely the wrong
thing to do because cows milk could have harmed the chick.
If I am honest I have to admit that I fully
expected to wake up the next morning and find the chick had died
during the night. But instead I was greeted with a very hungry chick
gaping for all it was worth. So it was more wholemeal bread and milk
which I used in extremely tiny pieces and fed them to the chick with a
glass rod taken from my microscope set which I had no idea of its real
Then it was off into town (Saturday) to the pet shop where
they sold all manner of things. I managed to get what I was after
which was a special food that bird breeders used to feed their chicks
- budgies and finches ect. The food could either be mixed with water
or with honey and was the ideal food for seed eaters which I believe
Sky Larks are. With this food the chick went from strength to strength
and it wasn't long before it was walking around. I needed a better
home for it now.
I quickly found a
large cardboard box, cut the front off it and placed it on my window
sill so that the chick could look out of the window. Previously the
box had housed some crackers ( as in cheese and crackers) TUC crackers
to be precise, so the chick was christened TUC from then on.
TUC gets discovered
It was obvious really, by
placing the box in the window it was only a matter of a very short
time before TUC was discovered by a parent. This meant having to go
all through the "get rid of it" arguments, phoney tears and all the
rest of it before TUC became an accepted part of the family.
TUC would follow me around outside by walking behind me. He/she never
made any attempt to fly but was simply content to walk everywhere. TUC
still slept in his box (I've decided TUC was a he) but the rest of the
time he was close by me. TUC seemed fine outside so I decided that if
TUC was ever going to live wild he needed to start somewhere.
Life gets tough for TUC
To begin with I would put
TUC in the back garden and watch over him like an anxious parent from
the window. At first TUC just stood there and refused to move, even
cowering if another bird came in to the garden. But this changed over
just a few days until TUC would go looking all around the garden for
things to eat and would even chase other birds away, what a
transformation. I felt safe to leave TUC in the garden while I did
other things and TUC never left the confines of the garden. After
about five weeks of this I took another big step with TUC and would
put him in the garden when I left for school. Then when I returned
home at night I would make the sound I used to make when feeding him
and he would instantly appear from the undergrowth and half run half
fly across the garden to greet me. One weekend when the weather was
very hot I decided to take my breakfast cereal out into the garden to
eat and I put it down on the lawn while I fixed the deckchair. TUC
decided that what he needed on such a hot day was a nice cooling bath
and promptly chose my breakfast with the cold milk to do just that.
Fearing a little smelly bird in my bedroom I went to get some clean
water to get rid of the milk but TUC had already taken his bath for
the day and could I tempt him to get in the water? NO. I eventually
had to resort to force.
time TUC was being left to his own devices but he still would remain
in my back garden 99% of the time, I left my bedroom window open as my
mother was in all day and so TUC could come and go as he pleased.
Unbelievably TUC still chose to sleep in my bedroom in his TUC
crackers box on the window sill. One day it was a little cooler and I
closed my window without thinking. TUC turned up on the doorstep
making a lot of noise until someone went to investigate, then once the
door was opened he let himself in and made his way to his box for the
night (this is very true). He did this several times more and each
time he convinced a few more unbelievers. Things had settled down into
a routine with TUC and it felt it would go on like this forever. Then
out of the blue I ended up in hospital again.
Good bye TUC
Naturally I would always ask about TUC when my parents visited me and
things had remained the same while I was away. Then the news I was
dreading, TUC had gone out as usual one morning but failed to return
at night. Next day my mum went out asking neighbours if they had seen
him (everyone knew TUC) but no one had seen anything. I'd like to
think that he had decided to go and make it on his own but I'll never
I was heartbroken over TUC for several days when I came out
of hospital and even now I find myself thinking of him whenever I hear
the song of a Sky Lark as they hover overhead singing like they do.
I still miss you TUC where ever you are.