Tim Dowling: I’m now a dab hand at handling injured bird scenarios

My wife comes downstairs in the morning to find me in the kitchen, reading the news on my laptop.

“I’m going out,” she says.

“Are you getting milk?” I say. “We need milk.”

“I need your keys,” she says.

My wife has misplaced her set of keys – car, house, back door, everything. They’ve been missing for a couple of days, but she seems remarkably relaxed about it. A lot more relaxed than I would be, or am.

“Fine,” I say, reaching into my pocket for my set, and thinking: if she can lose her keys, she can lose my keys. And then where will we be?

“Thank you,” she says.

“Wait,” I say. “Unlock my office before you go, otherwise I won’t be able to work.”

This isn’t exactly true: we have a drawer containing many loose and unlabelled keys, where I should be able to find at least one spare key to my shed, if not sufficient keys to make up a whole new set. But that would take ages, and I want to seem pressed for time.

My wife walks across the garden, opens the door to my office shed and returns.

“Happy?” she says. I think: “I feel so helpless without my keys.”

Fifteen minutes later I am alone working in my office shed, door wide open, when a crow the size of a small turkey flies into the window next to my head at speed. The sound is terrible: a loud thud that rings the glass like a bell, followed by a soft, parcel-on-mat crunch as the crow hits the ground.

“Holy shit!” I scream.

I swivel my chair round: the crow is sitting there stunned, with one wing splayed out at an awkward angle. A single black feather lands beside him.

“Ow,” I say, unhelpfully.

The crow and I exchange a long look through the open door: it’s a terrible start to the day for both of us.

The cat, who just happens to be turning the corner of the brick path, sees before him the opportunity of a lifetime. The crow’s friend – another crow – issues a warning from the overhanging branch of the cherry tree. The crow turns its head in several directions, looking for an escape route, until his eye lands on me again.

“Don’t come in here,” I say. I want to stand up and lock myself inside, but I don’t have my keys.

The cat pounces. The crow flaps crazily and lifts off the ground before ditching in a bush a few feet away – more of a long hop than a short flight. I step outside, scoop up the cat and carry it across the garden to the back door.

“Miaow!” the cat says, furious.

“I understand,” I say. “But I can’t let these things happen in front of me.”

I leave the cat in the kitchen and return to the bush. At first I think the crow might have disappeared, until eventually I spot his black head tucked in among the leaves, watchful and perfectly still. I say what I always say to injured wild animals.

“Do I have to do anything?” The crow stares, unblinking.

“You’ll be fine, right?” I say. “I don’t have to do anything.”

From my desk I can monitor the bush where the crow is hidden, in case something happens, or the cat finds its way out of the house. The other crow – the crow in the tree – goes off like a klaxon every few minutes, but his friend doesn’t answer.

I think about all the damaged birds I’ve come across out here: the magpie that got in the house and smashed into the skylight trying to get out; the wounded pigeon I found cowering on the lawn that time; the headless parakeet delivered by a fox to my office doorstep one evening. I really didn’t have to do anything that time.

Eventually I hear some insistent flapping, and look up in time to see the injured crow wobbling through the air, low across the lawn, until it lands halfway up the cherry tree, where the ivy-covered trunk bends, and clings on. I step outside, arms folded. The crow and I regard one another.

“See?” I say. “You’re gonna be fine. I mean, you don’t look great, but …”

The crow launches himself again and flies east across several back gardens.

I think to myself: you have handled all this very well. I go inside to liberate the cat and make myself a congratulatory coffee. Opening the fridge, I see that there is still no milk. Undaunted, I grab a plastic bag and head out to the shops. I am halfway to the corner before I stop, turn, look back at the closed front door and pat my empty pockets.

The Guardian