Among all of nature’s living creatures, birds are among my very favorite. Aside from the fact they can fly, many of them are breathtakingly beautiful with their striking red heads, blue or yellow bodies and their wing structures, no matter how big or small.
Monday morning gave me a chance to hold two of these creatures under opposite circumstances.
The first: Lori looked out the window of our cabin and saw a lifeless form on the ground. It was a goldfinch, a juvenile. I went outside, picked it up and held it in my hand. The body was still warm, the eyes still barely open. It weighed only a few ounces and the feathers were downy soft.
Lori speculated that the bird flew into the window. I didn’t hear anything but she’s probably right. I felt sad for our little friend, but also grateful to be able to hold such a delicate being.
The second: Less than two hours later, Lori called for me. A small bird had got caught in the netting we use to keep deer away from edible plants in the garden. It was a small sparrow. Fortunately, it was stuck toward the bottom of the netting within easy reach.
With great care and a pair of scissors to snip carefully at the plastic netting, I was able to calm the bird and eventually free it. She (don’t know why I’m assuming it was female) let me hold her gently and pet her with my index finger before letting her go.
She flew from my hand … and directly into the netting again, this time higher off the ground and in a more difficult spot to reach her. The poor thing was upside down, her head caught in the mesh. I reached her and held her steady. Before Lori could return with the scissors, I managed to pull her out and this time stood to the side of the netting before releasing her from my palm.
Success. She flew away, maybe 40 yards, into a tree and disappeared. A traumatic morning for her. A bittersweet one for me.
Wish I could have saved the goldfinch, but glad to free the sparrow.
The third. Not 20 minutes after I wrote this post, I went outside and discovered a second bird had got itself caught in the garden netting, at the exact same spot as the first. Was this a weird coincidence? Or was it the same sparrow that got tangled originally?
I’m thinking it was a different bird because I didn’t see any reddish signs of trauma on its body from trying to free itself. I did see something like that on the first bird I rescued. In any case, I was able to free this one in 30 seconds tops.
The fourth. Yes, there was a fourth. Today at mid-morning, I came in from outside to hear chirping and fluttering — sounds of distress from the little bird that had flown into our cabin through the open front door. We had left it open for fresh air. Now we had an unintended visitors that was flying back and fourth looking for a place to land.
The bird, a pine siskin, was too quick for me to grab with my hands, so I went to the closet and got a fishing net. The bird flew upstairs to where the ceilings are higher and for a minute or two, I chased it back and forth between two rooms. Finally, it settled (sort of) halfway down a wall and I netted it. I carried it down the stairs and to the front door, where I opened my hands. She sat there for just an instant and then flew onto the porch.
How uncanny that in the space of less than 24 hours, I would handle four birds. Four creatures that I would normally only admire from a distance. And somehow each of them found a way into my hands.
Photograph of pine siskin: Green Grandparent Canada