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TUC

Introduction
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.
I 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.

Next day
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 purpose.
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.

TUC explained
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.
By now 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.

Some surprises
By this 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 know.
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.

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