Monday, February 05, 2007

An Individual Bird

I sent an email to Julie Zickefoose on Sunday. The subject line was "Is it Crazy to Save a Bird?" If you read Julie's blog you know she has a great reputation for rehabilitating a lot of birds (and other wild creatures, including a lawn-mower-chewed box turtle). Julie knows how to do it. We don't. We don't even know how to begin. Even if we decided to intervene, how do you get a bird into the bird-cage where it will be fed and cared for? Mmm? We can't just say, "Here birdy birdy, we'll take good care of you," in the same sing-song voice we use for the cat.

For the past three days, I've noticed an Oregon Junco in the yard. We often have 25-30 juncos at a time out there, so how could I identify just this one? Easy. It just doesn't move very much. When all the other birds scatter quickly spurred on by the arrival of the Stellar's Jay or the speedy and body-twisting Sharp-shinned Hawk, only one junco stays put, on the lawn, camouflaged by mounds of mole-strewn dirt. When this bird tries to fly, it merely flutters and barely gets three feet off the ground. It does get from here to there, from lawn to rock and back, but with difficulty and a heavy awkwardness. But once you've identified a sick or injured bird, then what? I went over to Dave's site, The Bird Learning Center, but the link to Help I've Found An Injured Bird was gone. What to do?

Fortunately, Julie was right there in Ohio, and emailed me back with excellent advice. She told us how we might try to capture the bird, if it seemed like it was something we were willing to do. She said I could take a thin, large towel out into the yard and toss it over the bird, being careful to pin it and pick it up. She told us how to hold it, and what to look for. It was like a 9-1-1 virtual call with a kind, smart and loving caretaker on the other end.

I went out into the yard, buoyed by her confidence. All the birds but our troubled one, scattered. He let me get so close I could almost just bend down and scoop him up. I took the towel and tossed it lightly over him. He quite spritely and smartly flew right out from under it. I was so dismayed. I just couldn't try again and stress him out any more than I had already done. So I just let him be.

He spent most of the afternoon in the yard. I've been keeping my eye on him. His stillness is sad and troubling. I promised myself I would try again on Monday, if he makes it through the night. I am so grateful for the help Julie gave me in real time. The internet makes the world seem small enough that sometimes I feel I could contain it in my heart.
On that note, we would like to take a moment to say farewell to Zeke, Chris Clarke's beautiful dog who died on Saturday. Chris's writing helped all of us fall in love with that wonderful dog. Good Zeke went out on his own terms, on his own beautiful wings. Farewell to Zeke. Our sympathies to Chris and Becky.

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