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Miss Crow flying high after saving tiny bird


By David G Scott

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A Wick teacher was "on cloud nine" after helping save an exhausted goldcrest – Britain's smallest bird.

The bird's saviour is the aptly named Clemency Crow, a teacher at Wick's Newton Park Primary School and a self-confessed lover of wildlife.

"One of the younger children told my colleague, Mrs Jaime Bain, that they'd seen a bird fall off the roof so she went to investigate," Miss Crow said.

The tiny goldcrest is Britain's smallest bird.Pictures: Clemency Crow
The tiny goldcrest is Britain's smallest bird.Pictures: Clemency Crow

"Mrs Bain and I share a love and concern for wildlife so we deliberated for a while what to do about it. We get a lot of gulls in our playground so we were concerned it would become a tasty snack if left on the ground."

Miss Crow's class was with another teacher for a couple of hours so she brought her chair out into the playground and sat close to the tiny bird – which she identified as a goldcrest – with the "sole intention of scaring off any opportunistic gulls or cats" that came along.

The goldcrest is Britain's smallest bird but despite its tiny size is highly migratory, with a large influx of birds from Scandinavia arriving on the east coast of Britain every autumn. The immigrants arrive from late August through to early November, departing the following March and April.

Early ornithologists didn’t believe a bird as tiny as a goldcrest could fly across the North Sea unaided, and it was thought that they rode on the backs of migratory woodcock or short-eared owls. Exhausted migrants are typically unafraid of humans, and some will even land on people.

Miss Crow said: "The goldcrest seemed quite happy for me to be there and wasn't interested in moving, which is when I got some great photos of it.

The Newton Park schoolteacher sat with the tiny bird to make sure it didn't become a snack for cats or gulls.
The Newton Park schoolteacher sat with the tiny bird to make sure it didn't become a snack for cats or gulls.

"Eventually, it started to rain and I couldn't let my work get wet, so I carefully picked it up in my jumper. As soon as it was off the ground, it flew away and I watched as it found its way into one of the gorse bushes, providing perfect protection.

"As soon as it flew away, I rang Mrs Bain and told her it was safe. Working on a friend's croft for two years taught me that nature doesn't always have a happy ending, so I was absolutely thrilled that this little critter was okay."

When she learned about the distance the bird had flown she said "it was no wonder it was absolutely exhausted".

"For such a tiny creature, it's a wonder they can travel so far. I posted an image on the Caithness PhotosFacebook group, and somebody shared a picture of one on their boat 15 miles offshore. Perhaps it was the same one?"

She added that it was the first time she'd seen a goldcrest and it put her "on cloud nine for the rest of the day".

Miss Crow said her pupils are incredibly kind and respectful towards nature. The previous day they had spent ten minutes rescuing dozens of worms which had found their way onto the concrete of the playground where they would have been eaten by birds or trampled by children.

"One of my class made a comment a few days ago when we got a worm in the classroom. They said 'we never had nature in our class before, but now we get things all the time. Miss Crow, I think nature loves you'.

"You don't forget a comment like that."



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