Yesterday I was running late. I had to take the boys to swim and then go to a meeting at their school. In order to get ready, I had to stop in the middle of feeding Snickers and ask the Mister to take over. I’ve been very good about doing all the Snickers work myself, both because I’m the one who brought the bird home and because this would be the time I bring home a baby animal with a rare communicable disease that turns everyone into ducks. Better safe than sorry.
But asking him to finish Snickers was unavoidable. So I knocked on his office door and said please and thank you and you’re awesome. I noticed him smiling at Snickers getting so excited about the bottle and as I ran by I said, “It’s fun, huh, to feed something so little.”
“Yeah,” he said. “But she still hit every ugly branch in the tree on the way down.”
I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but Snickers is alive and well. Lots of changes in just one week, too!
Snickers was unfeathered all over but the wings two weeks ago, and even those still had feather sheaths. (You can see that picture here.) S/he couldn’t walk, couldn’t perch (stand on my finger), and really couldn’t stand very well, either. Snickers spend the first few days sleeping and eating. Come to think of it, s/he still spends most of the day sleeping and eating, but stays awake longer after eating.
Other changes including perching for a few seconds at a time. We work on that every day. Snickers can now stand and there is a little bit of walking/hopping, but only when the bottle comes out. It’s more of an adorable shuffle. And, you can see in Snicker’s sexy wing picture, the feather sheaths are starting to dissolve and some downy feathers (in gray and white) are coming in on the back and side. The yellow fuzz on the neck is gone, and today I noticed that some feathers are coming in on the neck and a couple on the head. The head is still yellow fuzz, but I bet in a week or we’ll have more feathers than fuzz.
Lastly, we are spending more time outside. I read that birds at the fledgling stage, which Snickers is fast approaching, spend some time on the ground or on low perches. The Mister and the boys are researching outdoor pigeon houses to build for Snickers. I’ll move Snickers there and, hopefully, once s/he is ready to fly, that will be that. I’m hoping to have that house set up in the next week or two.
When I first brought home Snickers, s/he was drinking from a baby pet bottle with the nipple snipped to the bottom. Now that s/he has almost doubled in size (!!) I’ve started cutting fingers off of rubber gloves and poking holes in them. The video above is of Snicker’s 3rd time using the rubber glove “nipple.” Snickers hasn’t quite got the hang of it, but the learning curve sure is cute!
I try to always learn from my mistakes. Really. This is why this time, I didn’t call the Mister. (So impersonal!) This time I walked into the house and simply stated, “We have a problem.”
To which he responded, “What the hell is that?!”
With a long-suffering sigh I said, “A baby bird. Obviously. He needs my help so I had to bring him home. My hands were tied!” My hands are often tied, just in case you’re new here.
“I know what it is,” he said. “I meant what is it doing in your hand and inside our house?”
It’s like he missed the whole part about the baby bird needing me and my hands being tied. Like all good stories, I began at the beginning.
I was on my way to the pharmacy, approaching a 3-way Stop-Sign intersection. I made my stop and thought I saw something on the ground. I looked behind me and saw a car in the distance, so I took the opportunity to reverse a bit to see what it was. It was a bird.
Seconds later, when the car behind me pulled up–young guy, tattooed sleeves–I walked up to him and explained the situation. “I’m going to move it off the road,” I said. “I shouldn’t take a minute.” Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed another car stop.
He mumbled something in typical young guy fashion as I ran over to shoo it, only to see it was a very young bird–mostly fuzz and a few feathers. You can’t shoo something that can’t walk! As I got closer, a boy Mikey’s age ran over to pick up the bird–or at least tried to if his motions to pick up the bird while simultaneously recoiling in horror were any indication. I debated letting him do it, maybe even helping him out, thinking it would be a great opportunity for the boy to get in touch with nature. Or whatever.
Then the boy’s mother, who was parked in the middle of the road with her son’s car door wide open, leaned back and at the top of her voice screamed, “¡Agárralo!” (Translation: Grab it!)
I objected to her tone. The tone that suggested we were in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and before us lay the last crossbow known to man. I thought if she wanted the bird so much, she should have pulled her car to the side of the road and pick it up herself, since her son was clearly terrified of being pecked to death.
Then she screamed “¡Agárralo!” again, but in that distinctive way Hispanic mothers have, mine included, where they elongate the accented syllable with a ferocious roar until all they have left is a gasp of air with which to spit out the rest of the word. So, instead of ‘¡Agárralo!’ it was more like ‘¡Agáaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa…rralo!’.
I leaned over and plucked the bird from the ground without sparing the woman another glance. I couldn’t! By this point, my side of the Stop-Sign intersection was 4 cars deep. The tattooed boy knew what I was doing, so he was patient. The car behind him had two women with enormous 1980s bangs. They were not as understanding as I climbed into a plant border with trees and laid the baby bird down among the leaves. Curious, I thought, that those women should be so rushed for time when their hair was running 30 years behind.
I got in my car, put it in drive, and then immediately pulled over to the side of the road and went to look for the bird. I saw images of him being torn apart by cats! I took him home to call animal control so they could pick him up and rehabilitate/release.
“So you see,” I said to the Mister as I finished my story. “We aren’t keeping the bird. We’re just holding it until animal control gets here in a couple of hours.”
Animal Control arrived two hours later. I handed over the bird, which at this point I had in Buttercup’s special carrier with some seed. I watched the agent walked away with my little rescued friend in the palm of his hand. “Out of curiosity,” I asked. “What will you do with the bird?”
“Honestly? We’ll put it down. We don’t have the man-power or the resources to care for another wild animal.”
I thought about the Mister inside and how he didn’t want another pet. I thought about how I told him I wasn’t bringing home another stray. “Can I keep it and take care of it?”
At least I thought about it.
“Well, sure,” the agent said. “I mean, I figured you would be a good person to give a try seeing that you have a special carrier. For your bird. You, uh, seem like a bird person.”
Ten seconds later I was back inside the house with the bird in my hand. “We have another problem,” I called out.
“What is it this time, Doctor Dolittle?”
“Would you believe my hands were tied, again?”
And that’s how I came to bottle feed a baby bird on a Saturday night. Mikey named him/her Snickers, which I think is perfect. I took Snickers to a bird farm and they said he/she will need to be bottle fed for at least another 3-4 weeks. After that, we can wean him and get him ready for release. We aren’t sure if he is a pigeon or a mourning dove, and we won’t have a definitive answer for weeks. They’re in the same family, Columbidae, so they look very similar when young.
Only I touch the bird, much to Mikey and Nico’s disappointment. I think it’s safer, even though we had the bird checked and it’s healthy. Also, I don’t want Snickers too accustomed to humans since we’ll be releasing him in a month. Even then, if everything I have read is true, Snickers will return to visit us often.
As for the Mister, as I type this he is checking on Snickers, the bird he didn’t want.
photo credit: Jill Stevens
This is not my backyard, though I wish it was.
As much as I love plants, you would think my backyard looked, oh, attractive. Nope. I’m overwhelmed by the size, like too many different styles to commit to one thing, and am unsure how to handle all the shade we have when combined with our dry, blistering heat. It’s a field of grass surrounded by an empty bed.
Jill is the grandmother of one of my students, which is weird to contemplate because my grandma is 4’8 and has hair the color of a strawberry Good Humor bar. Jill, on the other hand, has long dark hair and is overwhelmingly beautiful. This must be because she spends all her time in the fresh air creating an animal sanctuary in her backyard. Those are her pictures, above. One day on Facebook I had to ask her if the pictures she was posting were hers and of her property. “Yes!” she said, as if having 25 different species of birds was no big deal. Every few weeks a sparrow the color of abandoned hope will visit my yard, but that’s only because they’re tired or injured.
She hasn’t posted too many bird pictures lately because she is, obviously, certifying her garden to be a Monarch Butterfly way station. This is how I imagine Jill spends her days.
Before we get to the butterflies (I can’t wait to show you those pictures), we’ll talk birds. This may sound naive, but I thought you hung up some feeders full of seed and waited for all the birds and their animal friends to stampede toward the house like last boarding call for Noah’s Ark. I was incorrect. Apparently it takes a good deal more thought to attract birds that aren’t despondent.
I took Jill’s advice and went to a local bird store. I knew I was in the right place when we pulled up and there were a dozen different birds eating from various feeders. They had a bunch of books and helpful employees that explained to me how to attract the birds local to our area. Aside from the depressed sparrows, I didn’t know we had “birds local to our area.”
If you are interested in what I learned you can read it in this post at Wayfair, which I organized in nerdy bird watching fashion. It may not be the most riveting post in the world, but I like it because it’s organized and will help me set up the backyard once I get the nerve to get started.
Have a great weekend, and thanks for your support!
Hello! Welcome to the latest episode of Hi/Low Blogger: Your place for jeers and tears. Two days of funny means now I’m going to depress you thoroughly. Let’s get started!
Yesterday I was out in the backyard taking pictures of Buddy and Buttercup after a not-so-great visit with the vet on Monday. (Because Monday was a pissed off llama.) I took Buddy in because his hind legs were becoming increasingly weak, to the point he would fall or toe under (his toes curled under when he stood, almost like he was standing on the top of his hind left paw). We have hardwood floors, so I was hoping it was “slippery floor for old dog” syndrome. Holy Incorrect Assumptions!
We did Buddy a huge disservice when we allowed him to become a tri-color mound of sad after Buster died. He didn’t want to move, and we didn’t push the issue. Thanks to our over-indulgence, the muscles in his hind legs, especially the left, have atrophied. He can’t take steroids because of his history of infection, so right now he is on an anti-inflammatory. I did some research and decided to rebuild his muscles using three gentle, short walks every day. Mikey does two of them, and already I’ve seen an improvement in his walking.
Buddy and Buttercup looked so pleased as they sunned themselves that I decided to come inside and write about their bro-mance. I did, without thinking or editing, and posted it to tumblr. I’m adding it here for safe keeping more than anything else since most of you read it already.
I never understood why someone would want a bird as a pet. I had two canaries as a child and don’t remember anything about them except the day a cat got to one and the other flew away. I lumped bird people with horse people. Both groups were zealous pet lovers more comfortable with their oddly-footed animals than people.
On March 8, 2014, our 13-year-old beagle, Buster, died of an aggressive bladder cancer. We didn’t see it coming, and neither did Buddy, his friend for life.
We brought Buster home when Buddy was 6 months old, so it’s likely neither one remembered life without the other. We worried that Buster’s passing would be difficult for Buddy.
We were terribly, horribly right.
For weeks Buddy stayed by the door waiting for Buster to come home. He wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t bark, and wouldn’t move except to go to the bathroom. Almost immediately he developed pneumonia. With his already compromised “old man” lungs, it took him weeks of antibiotics and a series of breathing treatments recover. On March 7, 2014, he was an exceptionally healthy and happy nearly 14 year old beagle. By May, he could barely walk and was coughing incessantly.
We brought home Buttercup in the middle of May.
For the first time in months, Buddy’s ears pricked up. He was curious about something, finally. He started sleeping again in the bed he shared with Buster, though he stuck to his side of the bed. (Old habits die hard.) He moved, usually to wherever Buttercup was. He sniffed. He ate. He wagged his tail.
Buttercup, we think, knows what Buddy needs in that innate way animals just know. He meticulously grooms Buddy. He perches on him and lets Buddy walk him around the yard. He lets Buddy sniff him and doesn’t get offended when Buddy gets spooked and moves to sit close to Buttercup, but not that close.
And just like that, I understood bird people. I became bird people. I learned about their complex social hierarchy, how intelligent they are, and how loving they can be with their non-bird family. I learned all this not by reading books, but by watching Buttercup slowly bring Buddy back to life.
Buddy still has problems. He’s blind in one eye and nearly deaf. His hind leg muscles have atrophied because of his refusal to move more than necessary after Buster died. He still coughs and he gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. He’s 14 years old, after all.
Still, it’s amazing to us that 83 grams of feathers did for Buddy what two vets and an adoring family couldn’t. A pastel-faced, cinnamon pearl cockatiel gave a 14 year old beagle the companionship he missed and the will to keep going just a little bit longer. Buttercup is worth his puny weight in gold, 100 times over.
You know I’ve been having a really hard time keeping it together, especially if you follow my Facebook page. Monday was a nightmare of epic proportions. Tuesday was slightly better. We’ll see what the rest of the week brings, though I predict kittens rolling down hills of clover into porcelain bowls filled with heavy cream because Monday was a pissed off llama.
I’m the dude who nearly loses his life but never drops his beer. Nico is the guy filming and laughing the entire time. Mikey is off screen calling animal control and worrying about rabies.
I should have gone home and watched funny animal videos, but instead I did three quick William Morris projects that have been bugging me. I organized the mail center, cleaned out my salt cabinet next to the stove, and cleaned out the fridge in the house and in the garage.
I found a kilo of wilted celery and remembered an old tip about putting it in water to crisp it back up. It worked like a charm, and since the celery still had the pretty leaves attached, I made homemade celery salt. It’s not like I made the celery salt because I had some time to kill in between dehydrating some kale and churning butter made from the milk of our free-range chickens. I have an incredible ability to remember mostly useless things, like the fact Heidi Swanson posted a homemade celery salt recipe in 2011.
So that’s what I did on Monday, and I’ve changed my mind. I’m the hamster.