Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blackbird Fly

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise...    Paul McCartney

My day begins with a back-handed SLAP to my husbands chest.  Since his return from 7 days of play, with 8 extra pounds, he's snoring...again.

It's Father's Day.  My plans include taking my 87 year old father, in his wheelchair, on a ferry ride to Island Beach - a town owned park located 2 miles off shore.  As much as he enjoys the ride, it's the food that is first on his mind - his favorite, grilled hotdog(s) severed at the concession stand with raw onion and mustard on a toasted bun.  But first, I'll need coffee and plenty of it.

How do you forget you're out of coffee?

My husband agrees to take the dog and cat for their morning walk while I head out to the local grocery store with the promise of mild, breakfast blend, whole bean coffee and the Sunday paper.

Twenty paces out we discover a baby bird, lying on the cool morning pavement under the neighboring office buildings carport. Half suited in feathers, with a crown of tuft on his head, he is shivering and chirping.  His eyes and beak are open....wide.

Finding fallen, baby birds is sadly familiar during the early days of summer and I don't know who to blame.  Why can't they stay safe inside their nest until they are ready to fly?  It's about a 12 foot drop, not an easy first flight.

I buried three so far this season.  We placed one back in his nest only to find him back on the pavement two days later...dead.  Did he leap? Was he pushed?

Barn swallows are prevalent here and we have more than our share.  They annoy most of our neighbors but I am impressed with their fierceness and loyalty to their young.

Our kitty, Miss Phoebe, is deathly afraid of them.  They'll swoop and dive-bomb her from every direction until she runs for cover.  It's funny to see an oversized cat afraid of such a tiny bird.

This little guy has a lot of fight left in him but how will he survive on his own?  If we leave him on the ground someone is certain to run over him, or worse, Miss Phoebe will find him.

We check for open nests but all six are occupied and none of the chicks match our little grey one.

After much discussion, we build a makeshift nest on the ground and, with latex gloved hands, gently place "little one" in the center of his new home.  We then put two, orange ceramic flower pots - one on each side - to prevent people from stepping or driving over him.

His chirp and open mouth cry for food is heartbreaking so I head into the garden to dig up some worms, smash them up with a rock, add some room temperature, bottled water and prepare a breakfast paste.  He is eager to feed but unimpressed with my culinary efforts and refused to eat. Regurgitate is out of the question - his only chance of survival is if his parents find and feed him.

Mark climbs up and down the ladder, closely inspecting each of the occupied nest and is convinced that an unsuspecting baby swallow won't mind some company.  It doesn't matter that little one is double his size and a completely different species of bird.

This sounds unreasonable to me - I'm certain we'll need a plan B.

I look up at the ladder, down at the bird and over to the clay pot  - it was a classic "peanut-butter in my chocolate" moment.... Put the baby in the nest, put the nest in the pot and put the pot on the top step of the ladder.

He's safer off the ground but will his parents spot him and if so, will they be willing to care for him?

With little one in his pot, I continued onto the store while Mark and our dog head out for their morning walk and the cat, clearly annoyed, is displaced inside.

I check on our fair feathered friend several times throughout the morning, seriously contemplating if I should bring him inside.  There is no sign of his parents and he is shivering... still.

Am I helping, or am I prolonging his suffering?

After I see someone questioning the planter, I make a sign that reads "CAUTION - BABY BIRD INSIDE ORANGE PLANTER - DO NOT MOVE - THANK YOU" and attached it to the ladder. (I have no idea why I found it necessary to include the color)

Later, when the superintendent reads the sign, he corrals the ladder with 2 orange cones and 2 large barrels.

By midday, I leave to take my frail father to the island, fully expecting another bird burial when I return.

It proved to be an extra challenging day.  It's not easy pushing a 175 pound man in a wheelchair, across sand, gravel, grass, and up and down ramps.  And I was shocked at the lack of assistance people were willing to give.

Feeding my father is also challenging and I have to be careful he doesn't choke.  He often coughs as he eats - a sad reminder that his Parkinson's will eventually take away his ability to swallow.

In between my fussing, I watch young parents push their children in strollers, tugging toys and overflowing diaper bags and wonder where the time went.

I am completely exhausted when I arrive home late for happy hour.

I sit inside my car, take a deep breath and wonder if I have the strength to check inside the pot.

From my rear view mirror I can see swallows chasing a single black bird. Shortly after, a second black bird arrives, this one carrying food.

I watch in amazement as he perches on top of the flower pot and feeds his little one.  Systematically, the two black birds care for their chick - one protecting while the other feeds.

Our plan has worked.  A life is saved, if only for another day.

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly...

Green Monkey Tales © 2010 Shannon E. Kennedy

(shot sideways but you get the idea :)

for reading, commenting and loving birds


  1. Awwww . . . you saved the little guy. It's so great that his family found him and it looks like they like the new nest. Sorry your day was so tiring, but I'm sure your dad had a wonderful time. How much does your cat weigh? Mine is 13 lbs.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. We've been having baby robins hopping about our yard this summer. They always act rather indignant as though they should still be in the nest being fed by Momma Robin. We keep an eye on them, making sure they stay safe, and I swear, the same ones always return after they "grow up". Lovely post and pictures!

  4. I'm so happy about the bird! That's great. Sorry about your father. It's so hard to see our parents age. I'm going down that path with my dad. It's hard.

  5. What a wonderful tale, Shannon! And congrats to your dad, eating raw onions at 87!
    Congrats on being featured by Collage Diva for the New England bloggers carnival!

  6. What a great blog! This was such a nice read. I have stopped my car many times and saved birds on the road who have either been hit by a car or who have flown into a window. I have learned that they need about twenty minutes or so if they are in shock to regroup. After that time they usually fly away. I have known birds to circle around me a couple times first as if to say thank you and then they take off. I am a new follower! Come visit me at Mama's Little Chick. By the way, the video of the boy playing guitar was super!

    Mama Hen

  7. What a great story!! Yay little black bird!!

    Thank you so much for following Everyday Bliss! I have just put up a little challenge to my 6 newest readers... that's you! Come on by Everyday Bliss and see if you would like to play!

  8. Hi, found you through Blog Flow. What a good samaritan you are (does that term still apply when your good deeds are directed towards animals? I think so). I noticed you have the Writers Rising link on your sidebar. Do you write there as well? I just posted there yesterday. Small world! Nice to meet a fellow writer. I'm over at Wanderlust. http://www.wanderlustlust.com

  9. hey, thanks everyone for commenting and I didn't know I was featured anywhere - I am stuck in some sort of bird world... AND

    yesterday, while lunching at the park, guess what happened...to me, on the same day that I posted BLACKBIRD FLY... if you guessed I was blessed by a bird you ARE CORRECT NEVER HAS THIS HAPPENED TO ME!!! AND YOU SHOULD SEE MY CAR!!! what is up with this???? yes, yes, it supposed to be good luck but damn, I was 6 bites into my cheeseburger when it happened. GOT ME GOOD!!!

    We got a heavy storm last night so we moved LITTLE ONE further back under the carport and then back out again this morning.

    now, I'm worried about hawks.... and raccoons... grow little one, grow!!!

  10. Your Friend FlickaJune 23, 2010 at 11:46 AM

    You are such a good person to take care of the little bird AND your father. Big wings and fluffy clouds await you.

  11. I have just visited your blog for the first time this evening. I just wanted to leave you a short note to let you know how much I've enjoyed reading here tonight. You write beautifully and with a shot of inspiration squeezed in there as well. Lucky bird to have crossed paths with you I think! :)


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison