For someone who really isn’t into The Wilderness, I seem to be encountering a lot of it lately. Last night I sat on a brick planter box for an hour, waiting for the bird in my hand to fly away.
Clearly, The God of Adventure thinks I’m more entertaining than Game of Thrones.
I left work last night with my friend Pooja, intending to give her a ride home, then rush to the house to drop off some absolutely delicious strawberries, before heading across town to the forge to discuss a metal clay class they’d like me to teach.
I glanced down as we headed for the car, barely registered a curled brown leaf on the sidewalk, right in the path of traffic. The leaf opened its beak.
Huh? Realizing, in my citygirl way, that a leaf seldom has a beak, I took a closer look. A beautiful little bird lay on the ground, belly up, toes curled into knots. Its eyes were closed and it lay absolutely motionless, six or seven feet from the building.
Our office buildings have giant windows; the company is situated on a wildlife preserve so those windows make for glorious, work-distracting views. Unfortunately, they’re also a problem for the birds, who regard reflections as potential rivals. They crash into those windows like knights jousting at tournament, then fall to the ground, stunned or dying.
That appeared to be the case with this little fellow. I calculated potential trajectories from his position and figured he’d smashed into a second-story window and knocked himself silly. I hoped.
He blended into the sidewalk reasonably well, right in the path of traffic for the 5:00 work exit, so I picked him up, cradling him gently in my hand. The bird didn’t struggle at all, just opened his eyes, beak still stretched wide. Even I knew that the open beak was a sign of distress–the bird equivalent of panting in fear–so I just let him lie in my open hand and crooned soothingly, while curious coworkers streamed past.
I’m pretty sure that a giant monster babbling nonsense is more alarming than soothing, but my avian knowledge is pretty much of the “Has feathers? Probably a bird” variety. I had no idea what to do with the little feathered critter, so I was mostly letting him be.
Close up, the bird was gorgeous. As he lay in my hand, I took in his rich golden brown and chestnut plumage, the black bandit’s mask edged in cream mascara, the vermilion pinpoints on his (or maybe her) wingtips that color-coordinated with the red, red tongue. S/he watched me, but made no move to escape.
“His foot is injured,” Pooja said, pointing to his right foot, all curled up on itself. As we watched, a stream of red trickled down the bird’s leg and pooled in my hand, dripping onto my pants.
“He’s bleeding!” I said, panicking. The bird shifted slightly, and I looked again. Apparently, our little friend had digested LOTS of red berries, and was now filling my hand (and britches) with purply-red poop.
Oh, great. I am going to need a shower. With bleach.
“Give it some water,” urged one coworker, and ran for a cup. She trickled a little into my hand, but Jeff the Bird–he just LOOKED like a Jeff–ignored it. By the way, water + bird poop = REALLY disgusting.
Jeff righted himself in my hand and delicately stepped onto the meaty part of my thumb, escaping the goo, but still didn’t leave. He watched me, pooped downhill (thanks a lot), but seemed more alert. Still, his crumpled foot was disturbing. I decided my friend needed EXPERT assistance, so I texted The Resident Carpenter and sent him a pic of Jeff, sitting there.
“Help. Found injured bird.”
Nathan is nothing if not succinct: “Wild animal rescue” and then “Put it in a shoebox so it doesn’t poop all over the car.”
Clearly, he had this bird’s number. I was beginning to resemble a mauve-frosted cupcake, only not frosting.
I called the Audubon Center and got voicemail. “We are closed. If you have a cat-attacked bird, press 1. If you have a bird that has struck a window, press 2.”
You’re kidding. 2
The voice on the phone warned me not to try and feed or water the bird (oops), but just to put it in a shoebox in a dark, quiet place until it recovered in an hour or two. If it still hadn’t flown away by morning, bring it to Audubon.*
Pooja ran for a box, but Jeff refused to leave my hand, even when I showed him the cozy box or the totally inviting tree branch beside me.
“Cedar waxwing, a young one, by the looks of him,” said a co-worker, “Pretty little guy,” but he had nothing else to offer and so I sat on the planter box, wearing trickle-down bird poop, while Jeff eyed me alertly but still didn’t leave.
“Uhm, Jeff, I really need to get moving here,” I suggested, gently tilting my hand. He stepped back into my palm and clacked his beak at me. Clearly, he had no plans to leave.
We debated leaving Jeff snugly tucked under a rhododendron bush, but predators abound in this place. So there I sat, bird in hand, waiting for SOMEthing to happen. Pooja ducked inside for water and paper towels. “Cynthia, you really need to clean that off.”
True. I started wondering if we were about to add yet another critter to our backyard zoo. “Come on, Jeff, let’s get you into this box and go home. I’ll take you to Audubon in the morning.”
Jeff glared at me and sat up, straight and tall in my hand, uncurling his toes. He cocked his head, gave me The Look and then, with a chirp, flew off. I went on about my business.
This morning I drove in, parked in my usual space, and headed for the front door of our office building. A cedar waxwing flew just ahead of me, landed in the tree in the brick planter, and eyed me, making a high-pitched squeal.
“Morning, Jeff,” and I headed inside.
*So let’s apply a little logic here: How do you put the bird in a covered box in a dark, quiet place AND wait for it to fly away?