IT’S not just Santa who comes down chimneys. In one Glengormley home this week, it was a baby bird.
Reader Bríd nearly jumped out of her pyjamas when she went into her living room last Friday morning when she got up for work. As she drew the curtains to let in the early morning sunshine, a bird screeched and took off from the curtain rail across the room in an explosion of feathers.
“I didn’t know what it was for a moment. My heart nearly burst with the shock,” she said.
When her heart stopped racing, she realised that the intruder was in fact a bird that had somehow managed to get into her living room. There had been no windows left open so the only way in was down the chimney.
But it had given Bríd a fright and she was too terrified to go back into the living room. And so Dúlra got the call.  And it was just as well, because hero wildlife rescuer Debbie Doolittle is run off her feet at this time of year with so many urgent requests for help.
This Tuesday alone she received 47 messages for help – before 10am! “As fast as I try to reply to one message another five are coming in behind it,” she wrote on Facebook. She reminded people not to lift fledglings and that young birds can’t immediately fly when they leave the nest, but are like toddlers and take a while to find their feet, or to be precise their wings. Their parents know where they are and will regularly bring them food.
“The work involved for a rescuer (after a fledgling has been lifted and perhaps handed to a vet) is phenomenal – doing this with one bird is hard enough, but when you’ve over 100 patients!”

The trapped bird of Glengormley was one call she didn’t need to respond to.
Dúlra arrived and went into the darkened room, its curtains still drawn. For a moment he thought the chick may have died because there was no noise, but when he moved towards the curtains it burst into flight just like it had done earlier that morning.
When it slid to the floor behind the TV, Dúlra got a towel and threw it over it, then put his hand underneath and gently held the bird. It was brown with a yellow beak – a young starling.
But it wasn’t exactly a newborn, it hadn’t any of the marks at the side of a beak that all young birds have. This bird had left the nest weeks ago.
Rather than a newborn falling from a nest in the chimney, this bird had somehow slipped down and then couldn’t manage to fly back up – birds can fly in straight lines, but there aren’t many who can manoeuvre up and down like a helicopter. And so once it found itself inside the chimney pot, the only way was down. 


The fireplace wasn’t used for a fire anymore, and thankfully it hadn’t been blocked up. And so the fallen starling suddenly found itself in a new world, one that was dark and terrifying.

Dúlra held it securely and brought it out into the back garden. This bird must be exhausted, dehydrated, near death, he thought. He opened his hand expecting it to hop onto a nearby branch. But starlings are made of sterner stuff. It took off like a jet, right around the side of the house. Dúlra ran out to follow its flight path. It turned right and up on to a neighbour’s roof. Here sat six other starlings – two adults and four young. Starlings love each other’s company and make strong family bonds, always twittering and playing and even falling out like all families.

They didn’t quite gather round the prodigal son, but they seemed delighted to be reunited with it. Birds have such big broods because so many are lost early in life. But this family of five healthy offspring will soon be branching out and finding new properties to make a home in. Hopefully homes with blocked-up chimneys! 

By the way, not all the calls about abandoned birds to Debbie Doolittle at this time of year are false alarms. This week an injured baby kingfisher, our cutest bird ever, was found near Titanic Quarter.

A LEG-UP FROM DEBBIE: Kingfisher set to return to the skies

A LEG-UP FROM DEBBIE: Kingfisher set to return to the skies

It was injured – a broken leg – which Debbie splinted, gave it pain relief and set it free. Amazing!

• If you’ve seen or photographed anything interesting, or have any nature questions, you can text Dúlra on 07801 414804.