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When Nature Calls...
A Sunday that was for the birds.
One of the risks of waiting until Sunday to come up with a topic for your Monday morning newsletter is that you never know when life is going to throw you a curveball, and pull you in a different direction… away from a writing mindset and away from your keyboard.
On a quick side note, I don’t expect that will happen next week. I recently secured a ‘Daly Grind’ interview with someone who’s kind of famous, at least in certain squared circles (😉), and my strong guess is that it will be ready to run next Monday. I’m pretty excited about it, as I’ve been a fan of this guy for a long time. Stay tuned.
Anyway, as I was saying, life sometimes gets in the way. And that’s exactly what happened late Sunday morning after I’d finished mowing my front lawn, and opened our side gate to start in the back. That’s when I found a scruffy little ball of freshly-formed feathers staring up at me.
A baby bird (I believe a robin) had fallen from an unseen nest in the large tree in our side yard. When I took a step toward it, it closed its eyes… I think in fear.
As unlucky as the nestling was to have fallen from its home, matters could have been worse. Our dogs had been in the backyard for quite some time that morning, and if one of them had stumbled across this little guy, I guarantee I would have come upon a very different scene — the kind of which I’ve come upon many times over the years, whether it be squirrels, rabbits, or yes… baby birds.
In past cases, the next steps were always easy… at least on paper. I either needed to dispose of a dead carcass, or — sadly — finish off a soon-to-be dead critter to put it out of its suffering (which I really, really, really hate).
But this was different. It wasn’t apparent that the bird was injured, though it certainly could have been (it’s hard to tell at that age, when mobility is naturally limited). My instincts were to try and put it back in its nest. The problem, however, was that I couldn’t find one, or even the remnants of one. In situations like this, when I’m at a total loss, my next step (as I’m sure is the case with many husbands) is to get the wife involved. At minimum, maybe she could spot a nest up in the tree that I hadn’t.
But when she joined me on the side of the house, and we discussed possible ideas, we began to hear nearby chirping that wasn’t coming from the little fellow now doing a chest-plant in the mulch in front of us (having moved, on his own, a few feet away from where I’d originally found him). There was initial hope that the noise would help us locate the bird’s nest, but we quickly realized that it was coming from a much lower elevation. One of the bird’s siblings was sitting just a few feet away on the ground. We now had two fallen nestlings to deal with.
The second actually seemed a little stronger than the first, more upright and definitely more vocal. We still couldn’t find a nest, and these guys were now telling us that they were hungry by opening their beaks wide as if we were their parents.
We called our veterinarian (thank God for Sunday hours), not to try and schedule an appointment (we knew they didn’t treat wild animals), but rather to get a referral for whatever organization (if any) does help deal with such situations.
Their answer was the Greenwood Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Boulder, CO.
I included a link to their website above, because we checked it out before placing the call, and found it extremely helpful — so helpful, in fact, that I thought it deserved to be shared, in case ‘Daly Grind’ readers happen to find themselves in a similar situation down the road.
Right off Greenwood’s homepage, under a section titled “Wildlife Emergency”, is a bookmark-worthy sub-section called “I Found an Animal”.
It begins with the below preliminary rules of thumb, applicable to all found animals:
Resist the urge to feed or give fluids, formula, etc to the animal. This often causes more harm.
Keep the animal in as dark of an environment as possible to reduce stimulation.
Keep the animal warm.
Keep the environment as quiet as possible, also to reduce stress.
From there, you’re taken through a wizard-style questionnaire that narrows down the predicament (with every categorization well described). Here’s the path we took:
Type of animal: bird
Type of bird: baby
Type of baby bird: altricial (common backyard birds)
Type of altricial bird: nestling
We found, unsurprisingly, that the best course of action (by far) was to return the birds to their nest (along with a helpful clarification that, despite popular myth, touching or handling a baby bird does not deter its parent from returning to the nest to care for it).
What about when the nest in not intact, or can’t be reached or found? Well, in that case, the answer is to build your own (Greenwood provides general instructions for doing so), and put it as close as possible to where you think the bird(s) fell from.
Though we didn’t see a nest, we knew which tree it had to be in, and we knew where we found the birds on the ground. So, we used a hanging planter, insulated it with plant liner (we know birds love it, because they’re always trying to build their nests inside our hanging plants), and placed the nestlings inside.
Then, I grabbed a ladder.
I felt pretty good about the makeshift home, and felt even better when I finally spotted a real nest in the tree. It was high up and unreachable, and there were no signs of activity (at least from my vantage point), but it was close enough in proximity to where we found the birds that it seemed the most likely candidate. So, I climbed up on the ladder, as close as I could get to the nest, and hanged the improvised one.
The plan, as of the time I’m writing this, is to keep a distant eye on our nest (where the two baby birds are currently calling for their mom), and hope the mom returns. She hasn’t yet, and it’s been a few hours.
We’ve talked to the people at Greenwood, who confirmed that we’ve done everything right, and recommended that we let this process play out for a couple of days, bringing the entire nest inside at night and covering it with a box, before returning it to the tree in the morning. If the mom doesn’t come back, the plan will be to drive the birds down to Greenwood, where hopefully those folks will be able to do something.
I’d say I’m optimistic about the mom returning, but I’m really not. Lots of very loud black birds (of which the two nestlings definitely aren’t) have been zooming in and out of the tree all afternoon, and I’m half wondering if some turf war (I admittedly know very little about how birds interact), may have set this whole drama in motion in the first place.
Part of me is even thinking that by the time this newsletter goes out, nature will have taken a not so happy course, and these two might not even still be with us. Either way, we’ve thus far done what we can, and I suppose it gave me something to write about.
I’ll provide an update in next week’s newsletter. In the meantime, your best wishes for these two little fellas would be greatly appreciated.
Let’s try to end this newsletter on a high note…
Latest from Laurent
I’ve written about artist Laurent Durieux in a few newsletters now (including as a featured topic a while back). I think the guy’s work is absolutely amazing. This new piece of his arrived the other day, and I must say it’s one of my very favorites. I felt compelled to share it.
The colors. The imagery. The detail. Just brilliant.
Obligatory Dog Shot
“… Someday, love will find you
Break those chains that bind you
One night will remind you
How we touched and went our separate ways”
Have you picked up your copy of RESTITUTION?
Interested in a signed copy? You can order one (or five) here.
Already read and enjoyed it? I’d love if you could leave a review for the book on Amazon.
A double dose of Durieux this week.
Composer Basil Poledouris’ original score for the 1982 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Conan the Barbarian is actually quite good, but the reason I bought this re-release of the vinyl album, from just a few years ago, was that Laurent Durieux provided the cover art (which is why I don’t think I’ll ever free this one from the cellophane).
Though it’s kind of hard to see in the picture (there’s a larger one here), Durieux’s depiction of Schwarzenegger is fantastic.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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Take care. And I’ll talk to you soon!