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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 October, 2004, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
Truck driver takes chicks under his wing
Pied wagtail
The pied wagtail can be as much a town bird as a country bird
A lorry driver who played foster father to a family of baby wagtails nesting near his gearbox has been honoured for his kindness.

Northern Ireland Water Service employee Terry McHale, who is originally from Dundee, hung up the keys of his lorry last May to allow the mother bird and her fledglings a little privacy.

Now the Animal Welfare Federation and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have publicly recognised his compassion and concern for animals.

Management at Lisnagelvin Water Service depot have also been commended for supporting Terry in his decision to park his 74,000 recovery vehicle for two or three weeks, to allow the new family a little space.
I believe that every animal should have a wee chance in life
Terry McHale

Terry and his colleagues noticed the pied wagtail flying in and out of a recovery lorry parked in their Waterside depot yard in Londonderry.

After a long search, they came across the nest hidden next to the gearbox, but they did not think the mother would be hatching eggs in the cab.

On the move

Initially, Terry had been taking the nest of eggs on trips to Belfast, Enniskillen and Larne before realising that a parent bird was tailing him all the way.

Staff at the depot noticed the bird bobbing in and out of the lorry.

"Every time I went out she started following me in and out of the yard," Terry told BBC News Online.

"The mother was going mad. After I would come back she would be waiting and hop on to the vehicle while I was reversing," he explained.

Despite all the long journeys, the mother did get her hatching act into gear, and one morning, Terry discovered that the eggs had indeed cracked and there were three baby chicks sitting at third gear and waiting to get their HGV licences.

He immediately decided not to drive the vehicle after contacting the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

"I believe that every animal should have a wee chance in life," said the gold hearted lorry driver.

All the chicks successfully flew the nest a fortnight later.

On Tuesday at the Water Service's Altnagelvin Workshop, Animal Welfare Federation Chairman and RSPB representative Norman McCombe, accompanied by AWF founder, Angus Moore, presented Terry with an Animal Welfare Merit Award.

Water Service chief executive Katharine Bryan received a merit award on behalf of the Altnagelvin Water Service Transport Management Group and Staff.

Mr McCombe said the very kind act, which saved the lives of the wagtails, was in the highest traditions of animal welfare and of the RSPB.

"We heartily congratulate the Water Service for it," he said.

"At a time when reports of incidents involving cruelty to animals are all too common, it makes a welcome change to come across a story or care and compassion for wildlife by a public service employee who was fully supported by his management."

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