I cleaned and filled the bird feeders one morning earlier this week. I asked Suzi how long she thought until we’d have visitors. She was confident our feeders would see use by that same afternoon. And she was right!
I was at the computer with my back to the feeders when Suzi said there were 30 birds at the feeders. I thought she was exaggerating. When I turned around, I scared them away to a nearby tree. I counted as they returned. This time, Suzi was wrong. There were more than 50 goldfinches on the feeders and on the ground beneath!
This morning I drove Melissa to school. She needed to arrive early for a field trip to the Oregon Coast. On her way out the door, she grabbed her lunch, her book bag, and then her shoes off the front porch. As I backed out of the driveway, she settled in and started putting on her shoes. Her toe discovered something soft and grayish-brown in the tip of the first shoe. She jerked the shoe away, held it in my direction, and asked what I saw. She had reason to be concerned. Recently, her mother found a dead field mouse generously deposited in her shoe by our insane cat (sorry, “insane cat” is redundant in all circumstances). I looked in the shoe and saw a small bird. I couldn’t yet tell whether it was alive. A couple of pokes showed that the bird was indeed alive, and now burrowed farther in the shoe’s toe.
Melissa unlaced her shoe and lifted its tongue. Now we could see a little more of the bird. I put my finger alongside the bird, and prodded it out. Not only was the bird alive, but it looked alert, unharmed, and quite young. It apparently ended up on our front porch, saw a cat, and took refuge in Melissa’s right shoe.
We took the bird in the school to find Melissa’s science teacher. Maybe she would know what to do with a young bird. After not finding her, but being found by virtually every seventh-grade girl who was told the story of finding a bird in the shoe on the way to school, Melissa had to go in and sit down. I had the bird and needed a box to hold it on the way home. The kindergarten room yielded a box, and the discovery that the bird could fly, though apparently not too well.
The bird serenaded me the whole way home, sounding healthier with each mile. The Audubon Society’s answering machine provided helpful information:
The mother, having a lousy sense of smell, would not reject the baby bird after it had been handled by humans.
It’s normal for baby birds to spend two or more days on the ground while learning to fly.
The Audubon Society would not take in a healthy bird unless we knew for sure it was an orphan.
Setting the bird free was the best thing we could do for it.
After taking the bird home, showing it to Jamison, and taking its picture, I retrieved the ladder to look up in the gutter where we’ve been seeing some birds come and go. I didn’t find a nest, but did see an area where a nest might be, and set the open box nearby, where the bird’s parents would be able to find it and care for it.
Before I could even get down the ladder, my new friend flew from the box, across the yard, and perched in a tree. Clearly, I had been sandbagged the whole way to and from school by this little creature. It was soon joined in the tree by a black-capped chickadee and a house finch (which I think it is). Its prospects look good.
Melissa will be pleased to hear that this bird need not be memorialized by anything more than the new whitish stains in the bottom of her right shoe.