The heartwarming saga of schoolboy and a sparrow had the ultimate happy ending this week.
Alfie Mountey was walking to school when he spotted other children swerving to avoid a tiny, featherless bird on the pavement.
The 11-year-old picked up the two-day-old chick and climbed a nearby tree in a bid to find the nest it had fallen from.
When he failed to find a nest, he carried the bird into school, where teachers helped him call the city’s Shires Wildlife Aid hospital.
“Technically this baby bird did not stand a chance of survival,” said Shires founder Tracey Walker. “But we treated it the same as we do any wild creature: if there’s life we will fight for that life all we can.”
Miraculously, after weeks of being fed pureed kitten food through a syringe, the sparrow survived.
On Tuesday Tracey took the fully-fledged fledgling back to Caroline Haslett in Shenely Lodge for Alfie to enjoy the ultimate privilage – releasing it back into the wild.
“It was a poignant moment. I don’t know who was happier – the sparrow, me or Alfie!” said Tracey. “It was certainly a wonderful sight to see it fly off, hopefully to join its own sparrow community.”
Such tender touches sum up the Shires Wildlife Aid ethos.
Staff deal with hundreds of injured, abandoned and sick wild creatures every year and their survivial rate is a staggering 70 per cent.
“It’s mostly down to the feeding,” said Tracey. “A baby bird needs to be fed tiny amounts every 15 to 30 minutes between dawn and dusk, while all young mammals need feeding every one to two hours throughout the day and night.”
Feeding is usually through a syringe but, as in the case of a miniscule baby vole smaller than a 50p piece, sometimes Tracey has to be innovative.
“We use the tip of a paintbursh to feed the vole.
“ He sucks it happily and he’s doing well.”
Many of the birds and animal;s are brought to Tracey’s smallholding by RSPCA inspectors.
“We never know what’s going to turn up next. We’ve had every type of bird, hedgehogs, rabbits, ducklings, squirrels and fox cubs,” she said.
With foxes she and her helpers have to stick to strict no contact rules for fear the cubs will be become too tame to survive in the wild.
“We have the same aim for every creature that comes here – to make them strong enough for release.”