Retired couple make an unusual friendship in their back garden

The bird which befriended Gwen and Jeff Holme
The bird which befriended Gwen and Jeff Holme

This summer retired couple Jeff and Gwen Holm have developed a remarkable relationship with a feathered visitor to their garden.

Over a period of weeks the pair, both 71, befriended a young, wild bird – a Great Tit – and the British Trust for Ornithology says it has not come across a similar case before.

The fledgling Great Tit first appeared in the couple’s garden only a few weeks ago – and with no landing on Jeff’s back.

Gwen, an enthusiastic birdwatcher, takes up the tale.

She says: “Hubby and I were in the garden, he on the sun lounger and myself at the bistro table.

“Suddenly, he said: ‘What’s on my back?’

“I looked and there was this gorgeous flegling Great Tit! It walked down his back and then flew across to me, landing on my head and then walked down my outstretched arm to the table, hopped around and then flew onto Jeff’s hand.

“I took the opportunity to go to the kitchen for some crumbs and a bowl of water.

“Our ‘little friend’ then started to eat and I flicked some water in his direction (the bird was male) and it went straight in the bowl for a drink and a bath. Water went everywhere. What a joy to watch!

“It’s hard to believe, but this continued for some hours, intervened by his scolding mother up in the holly tree. He went up to her several times, but back he came to us.”

The following day at the same time – 11am – Gwen says the exact same thing happened.

“We spoke to him as though he was a pet budgie and the little chappie put his head to one side and chirped back to us.

“As a keen bird watcher I have never heard of, or witnessed anything like this ,with a wild bird or any creature. He was genuinely enjoying himself.

“When I walked to the garden shed I wasn’t alarmed to find him on my bare shoulder.

“What an amazing experience.”

Gwen said the young bird spent about eight hours with them over the two days, but, on the third day even though they put water out for him he did not re-visit them.

“His parents had obviously thought it safer to take their offspring to a safer place and all was quiet in the holly tree,” said Gwen, adding that she didn’t think for one moment she would ever see or experience such an amazing closeness to a wild creature again.

However, although they did not see their little friend for a further two weeks, little did they know that it was not going to be their last meeting with him by far.

Freddie, as he has now become known, had certainly by no means forgotten them.

On the very day Gwen, a former computer clerk and Jeff, who was maintenance engineer, were forced to make an appointment to have their beloved 16-year-old pet cat Sooty put to sleep at the vet’s, the little bird came to them in their garage.

“It was unbelievable. It just flew to us and sat on each of our shoulders,” said Gwen, adding that it was almost as if he knew how upset they were.

Even though Sooty had never gone in the garden (she was always a house cat) Gwen felt it was as if Freddie knew, and understood.

Freddie has now visited them every day since.

“Ever since that day it comes to us, especially in the morning. It greets us when we are in the garden and sits on our fingers,” she said.

“It goes from one of us to the other and shares its attention and affection with both of us.

“It absolutely loves my earrings and it is so comical and as cheeky as anything. You just put out your finger and he flies down.

“We went to Garstang and bought a container of dried meal worms for all the birds, but no sooner than we took the container top off he came and foraged in the box and had a real good root around.

“Then Jeff was repairing a motorbike and it came and had a good look at what he was doing.

“It just seems he wants to be with us.”

Gwen concluded by saying she has contacted the British Trust for Ornithology and told them all about their experiences.

In turn, she said they told her they had no record of anything like this ever happening with a wild bird and were very interested and amused,

And to readers of the The News and Courier, Gwen, who is a well known face at Bushell House Residential Home in Goosnargh where she runs fortnightly quizzes, added: “I hope this amazing experience will brighten your day.”