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 :)
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