Best Birthday Gift
This is a short post about something that happened to me that touched me deeply. It was probably the best birthday gift a human could have. I hope it resonates with you too!
Flurry of Goldfinch Activity
When I got downstairs yesterday morning (my 58th birthday) the goldfinches were already hard at work on the sunflower chip feeder just outside our sliding glass door. They were engaged in the usual fussing and fighting. I had all four seed ports full with others waiting on the nearby chain. I’ve always tried to follow the best distance guidelines for feeders. This chip feeder was less than two feet away from our door. This has proven to be a safe distance so far.
My wife and I were enjoying their follies while watching Flea Market Flip. We could hear their sweet singing and nagging. They were really going through that stuff.
Then The Thud
Every birder who feeds birds knows that sound. Hearing the little guys brushing up against the glass while they jockey for position is NOT that sound. In the case of bigger birds trying to escape a hawk it can sound like a hammer strike on the wall.
This thud was pretty close to that. It immediately got our attention.
How Are You Little Guy?
I jumped up and looked through the door. It wasn’t until I got really close that I could see the male goldfinch dazed and leaning up against the door. I was sure he was seriously injured if not dead already. I could see one of his little legs was not symmetrical. He was breathing but that was about all I could tell. His eyes were only half open. Not good so far.
Off I went and grabbed my gardening gloves. Then outside to see if I could pick him up carefully. He was still not moving very much.
Signs of Progress
In a few minutes, I was able to get him to perch on one of my fingers using his own strength. This was a big relief to me but I knew we weren’t out of the woods yet.
Just Talk To Him
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I realize that being held by a human is not a desirable position for a bird. He was just starting to move around and I wanted to be sure not to startle him. Didn’t want him jumping off my hand before he was ready to do so. So I started a low and slow speech pattern where I told him he was going to be ok. Then I asked him how he was doing even if that sounds silly. I think the constant sound is very soothing to them while they’re figuring out what just happened.
Even More Alert
Eventually, he was looking all around. He made sure to stop and stare at me. I’m a believer in the energy that all living creatures can share if they’re open to it. I also think animals just know if you mean them harm. He was asking me what happened, who was I and why was I holding him. I let him know he had a little accident and I was helping him get better. I told him he’d be flying off very soon and how happy I was that he was ok.
You probably think I’m a kook at this point. However, I know he took the time to look into my soul and thank me for helping him. I told him it was my pleasure and I would gladly do it again.
Are you starting to feel why this was the best birthday gift?
Okay, I’ve Got To Go
Not long after that exchange, he was looking around everywhere, listening and finally picked a branch to fly to. His departure was strong and his flight path was sturdy. He WOULD be ok!
There are statistics that say even if they fly away they may die from the traumatic brain injury many sustain in window collisions. I can say firsthand that there are almost always signs if they are not going to get through an accident. Irregular flight, uncertainty about landing. Those kinds of things. This guy was zipping from tree to tree and back to the feeder before I knew it.
My wife swears he came by later and was looking in the window for me. I’m sure I’ll get to see him when I feed the birds later today.
Have You Been Touched In This Way?
I know I’m not alone here. Anybody who’s been feeding birds for any length of time has gone through this life and death ordeal. Most of the time, unfortunately, the outcome is not good. Good or bad, leave me a comment and share your experiences below.
For me, this was the best birthday gift I could have had this year. Thank you, God!
PS-My apology to you. Unfortunately, these things just happen too quickly. I was more worried about helping him than finding my phone and getting it on video. My wife thought about this but she said I had my back to her the entire time. Neither of us wanted to scare him just to get the perfect shot, you know?
But I’m still sorry I wasn’t able to get anything to let you see what was happening. It was truly magical.
Help Me Stop Window Collisions – BirdOculars.com
Why Birds Hit Windows and How You Can Help Prevent It – AllAboutBirds.org
That is a birthday gift you gave to yourself: to help someone in need. I try to rescue Fellow Earthlings whenever possible, and find it extremely gratifying when things work out for the best. Several of my “trapped” rescue tales:
Years ago I used to have a Red and White Border collie; “Remi.” She was a sweet, silky sylph of a dog. Quite intelligent. Among her many talents was alerting me to animals in distress.
We have a huge, 40′ long stand of bamboo which acts as a natural border between our property and the property to the west of us. One day I caught Remi staring intently into the bamboo. This was not something I had seen her do before. As I watched, she continued her vigilant inspection. Walking closer I noticed a rustling sound in the bamboo.
Guess what? Who would think it, but a bird (either House finch or House sparrow, I forget which) had somehow got trapped in the bamboo. Its one wing was caught up. Who knows how long that poor bird had been struggling? Remi and I rescued the bird, gently, and it flew off straight away. If not for Remi . . .
Another time Remi stood staring down into a five gallon bucket. Fixated. I called out to her. She wouldn’t budge. She was never a barker or whiner. She just stood on alert, telling me I’d better get on over and see what she saw.
Sure enough, there was an extremely young Opossum stuck at the bottom of the bucket. There was no way he ever would have got himself out of there. I was SO HAPPY that my Remi girl had found him. Tragedy averted.
One thing I do now is always keep good-sized sticks angled into any buckets in my yard. Either that or I make sure the buckets are turned upside-down, so as not to create a death trap for some living thing.
Recently, I have had to rescue two birds out of my feeders. Well . . . the one bird wasn’t IN the feeder —— he was stuck in the top of the wrought iron feeder station. You know the pole ones where the four hooks curve down from the top? That little guy somehow managed to get stuck in the small square top part from whence the hooks emerge. I have never seen anything like it in my life. I only found him because I was passing by and heard him straining to free himself.
Only a couple weeks ago I went to fill my backyard feeder, one of those spring-loaded perches steel hopper feeders, and thought I heard a slight noise inside the feeder. Hmm . . . The roof is tightly latched. No. There’s NO WAY a bird could have got in through the feeder ports, right? (I’ve had this feeder for 20 years now. Never a problem.)
I gave the feeder pole a slight shake. Rustle, rustle from inside the feeder. When I lifted the lid —– whoosh! —- out flew some bird. Couldn’t even tell if it was a Scaly-breasted munia or House finch or some type of sparrow, the bird was gone in a flash.
How long had that poor thing been in there? We had filled the feeder days before and it wasn’t yet empty . . . Why had s/he thought it was a good idea to squeeze through the feeder portal? HOW had s/he squeezed through? WEIRD.
Remi is long gone, and our present dog is a watch dog but not a “watches out for trapped animals” dog. We keep our buckets with sticks and patrol the feeders/poles daily..
Remi sounds like she was a wonderful, empathic animal. What’s funny is that humans and animals can share this same kind of connection if the HUMAN can tune into it. Guess what? You’re more than half way there! Congrats!
Another short article you might enjoy is about paying attention I wrote years ago but still holds true today. Here’s the LINK to that.
Years ago, I had a Carolina wren that had burrowed into the same type of seed port you mentioned, dug around for a while and then came right back out the same way. The mess was big but so were the laughs, believe me! I love those little birds!
Finally, you should pat yourself on the back for the care you’ve given to all your animal friends! It puts you in an elite class of human beings.
Credit my Mom. She used to say, “You don’t bother it, it won’t bother you.” Taught us to always be respectful of life in our garden and elsewhere.
A wise woman who obviously passed her wisdom and compassion on to you!