A baby sparrow on the ground in my back yard was trembling in the cool of the morning. My neighbor knew what to do to save her.
Date: 6/12/2012 2:45:25 AM ( 18 mon ) ... viewed 861 times
June 11, 2012
This morning I found a baby bird sitting on the grass. I startled her and she startled me when I noisily wheeled the trash barrel full of backyard cuttings past her; she flew up from the grass, making a low-level flight down the side yard walkway ahead of the trash barrel, her little wings beating only inches above the concrete. What was that? A baby bird! The second one in two days.
I came across the first baby in the front yard bird-of-paradise shrub in the evening just before sunset two days ago. She stood stalk still and stared at me as the comparatively immense-sized human creature that I am stared at her. The bird was the size of an adult, but still had downy fuzz on her back and head layered over her feathers, with the tail of the full grown mocking bird she is to become not yet grown in. We eyed each other silently. I went quietly into the house to call out a family member to come and see; upon spying the family member, the baby mocking bird squeaked and jump-flew further into the shrubbery. We backed up so as not to further scare her and left her alone, hoping she’d find her way back to her mother, who was wheeling and calling overhead. This morning, first thing, I checked the front yard shrubs and she was gone.
The baby in the back yard was a sparrow, much smaller than the baby from two days ago, but perhaps older. She did not have any baby fuzz on her but her tail feathers were still short. After her frantic flight to get away from me, she sat on the sidewalk, huddled into herself, trembling. I was afraid to pick her up, thinking that her little heart might burst from fear if I touched her. If left alone on the sidewalk, I was afraid she’d be eaten by one of the numerous cats that wander the neighborhood.
I called a man I know, whose mother once raised birds; he told me that it was OK to pick her up, as the mother would not reject her if she had human scent on her. The best thing was to try and put her back in her nest. This is not an easy thing to do if you have seen my back yard; it is full of fully grown trees. From which tree did the baby come? How was I to find the nest? He said that maybe a cat would come along and “solve the problem” of the baby bird. Many babies are born each year, and not all of them survive, he said; “that’s nature”, he added. Needless to say, that was not the answer I was looking for, although I knew it was true and the same thoughts had been in my own mind. I went back outside and checked on the baby; she hadn’t moved.
My next door neighbor to the south of me is a quiet, shy man; he’s a retired aerospace engineer, in his sixties. We haven’t had many conversations in the years we’ve lived in the neighborhood, and usually we just nod our heads “hello” when we see each other while out doing our yard work, but the conversations we do have always center on animals. G.B. is a natural-born naturalist. He cares for eight cats: one has a feline form of AIDS and must be kept indoors in his own bedroom at all times so he won’t infect any other cats; another is 17 years old and has severe arthritis; the third is an elder cat with a mouth injury; the fourth cat, abandoned when his owner died, decided to move in when G.B. left his front door open by accident one day; the last four are kittens that came to him after G.B.’s father died. G.B. is also a member of the Opossum Society (1), taking in and caring for orphaned baby opossums until they are old enough to be released to fend for themselves. I often find peanut shells and tangerine skins in my back yard, remnants of the food he leaves out for the squirrels and opossums. G.B. also has an extensive collection of bird feeders stuffed with seeds and his back yard is always filled with the tweets, caws, twitters, and squawks of birds.
I wanted to knock on his front door and ask him what to do about the baby sparrow, but was reluctant to do so as G.B. relishes his privacy, so I waited a bit until I heard him out in his backyard, raking the leaves. Knocking on his back yard gate, I called out to him. G.B. immediately came over to my side yard and without hesitation scooped up the bird, her little body continuing to tremble between his gently cupped hands. After a few minutes, G.B reported that the baby was moving about a bit inside of his hands; she had started to warm up. We figured that she may have been sitting out on the grass for quite a long time, maybe all night, and had gotten chilled. We walked into my backyard and I showed him where the baby had been sitting in the grass. We looked up into the trees, vainly searching for a nest. G.B. turned away, muttered a vague reassurance to me that he’d tend to her, and took the baby into his own back yard.
Half an hour later G.B. knocked on my front door to give me an update. He had placed the baby under an empty upside-down ceramic pot on top of his block wall next to a bush. The pot had an opening that was big enough to serve as an exit for the bird but was too small for a cat to get in; the clay of the pot absorbed the warmth of the sun and kept the sparrow comfortable. G.B. positioned the opening of the pot so that the baby could peer out and observe the comings and goings of the other birds at the bird feeders in his yard.
After placing the baby under the pot, G.B. had gone about his chores. He had checked on her just a few minutes before knocking on my door; she was gone. He figured she was a fledgling who was old enough to fend for herself after she had gotten warmed up enough; he thought she probably flew into the bushes, and from there could make her way up into the trees and hopefully back to her nest with a succession of short flights. We wished her well.
G.B. and I got to talking. He told me how his eight house cats were faring, and the latest about each of the feral cats that he feeds. I gave him an update on Bastet, the semi-feral Siamese cat we had once both fed; she now lives with the man who fixed my roof a couple of winters ago. We discussed the squirrels, opossums, birds and raccoons that frequent our backyards. The conversation shifted to talking about the peeling paint under both of our old house’s eves that we decided to just ignore, and from there veered off to discussing how each of us had decided not to use insecticides while contending with the termites that at one time had invaded our houses and with the bees that at another time had taken up temporary residence in our rafters. At the mention of bees, G.B. took me around to the front of his house and showed me a little potted plant, the name of which I can not now remember, that produced beautiful little red flowers, like miniature bottle brushes, that attracted bees. I next admired and smelled his abundant roses, and when the conversation waned I thanked G.B. again for tending to the baby sparrow and took my leave.
Martin Prechtel, writer, artist, and shaman, once wrote that there was no real life in the suburbs (2). There is life; you just have to know where to look for it.
Related Blog: Bastet, The Feral Cat http://curezone.com/blogs/fm.asp?i=1747860
(1)Opossum Society: "The Opossum Society of the United States is a non-profit, wildlife rehabilitation and educational organization dependent entirely upon volunteers, membership dues and donations." http://opossumsocietyus.org/
(2)Prechtel, Martin, The Disobedience of the Daughter of the Sun: Ecstasy and Time: A Mayan Tale of Ecstasy, Time, and Finding One's True Form, Acknowledgements. North Atlantic Books, 2001. "Dedicated to keeping alive the splendor of Indigenous thinking, Prechtel enchants the English language into carrying many of the original nuances of this nearly extinct Guatemalan Mayan tale."
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