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Saturday, March 10, 2012

A difference in the life of a bird

All the houses in our subdivision in Mentor were variations of the split level theme.  They were also alike in having no trees; we all started with naked clay soil to subdue.  I realized later there was/could have been topsoil left on the big old farm that became hundreds of houses, but topsoil is just another commodity, and sold before the first basement is dug.

Over the next little while I dug up and brought home a dogwood and an elm sapling.  I rooted and planted pussy willows and weeping willows, and all the trees thrived in my very wet backyard, half a mile from Lake Erie.  We planted trees in the front yard, too, when my girls came home with Arbor Day saplings.  I’ve driven down the old street, forty years later, and all those trees surround the houses like a forest.  Who would have believed it.

The back yard trees grew up and up.  With judicious pruning I turned the pussy willow from a bush into a tree.  We planted some roses, started a garden, grew elderberry bushes along the back fence line.  It became quite the proper back yard.  My trees grew taller and taller, and became so official they housed bird nests.

Beth and Shelly grew up there, too; the Mentor house was their childhood home.  We lived there twenty years.  Beth moved out to go to college, Shelly and I were on our own.  Out in the back yard one day, Shelly found a baby bird, fallen from the nest and helpless on the ground. We located his nest, tucked him back in with his siblings.  Several hours later he was back on the ground.  We made him a shoe box nest and brought him inside.

I, of course, anticipated his overnight demise and burial under “the headstone rock” the next morning.  My tender hearted daughter, however, began studying on his survival.  I have no idea what she concocted to feed him; I know it was not blenderized worms.  She took him away to her room, with an eye dropper and her container of baby bird food.  She fed him all weekend, and come Monday still had a small bird in the shoe box, but, knowing food was forthcoming on demand, a very vocal bird.  She took the baby to her summer factory job, where she was given permission to harbor and feed a bird on demand. 

In short order the bird was rowdy enough we had to rustle up an old bird cage to keep him.  Shelly had not had a night’s full sleep in two weeks.  Even through two closed bedroom doors, neither had I.  I wondered if Shelly’s factory job/bird fostering could have endured had her mother not been an executive up front.  Shelly was determined to grow her little guy up and set him free.  Although he displayed every evidence of flight ability, the little guy had a suspicion he would be out of a meal on demand every half hour if he actually flapped his wings.  I knew he had to go.

I called the animal sanctuary at Penitentiary Glen in Kirtland and asked if they had room for a fat and noisy little sparrow.  I told Shelly there was a home for her bird, and instead of bursting into tears she asked “How soon can we go?”   The nice ranger assured Shelly he’d have the fat little guy out and flying in no time.  I have a feeling they really did rehab him.  Probably set him loose in a fast food parking lot.

Phoebe Snow in the pussy willow tree


  1. I, for one, am all for the care and nurturing of sparrows!

  2. Oh, how happy I am to read this. I'm a retired wildlife rehabilitator...I had an avian sanctuary and was happy to take the "unsexy' birds...sparrows,starlings, pigeons. If God gave them life, I was happy to save it. Most rehab centres refuse these birds..glad your daughter gave the bird the second chance it deserved, and glad you found a decent sanctuary.
    Jane xx

  3. She had a very soft heart :) Glad you found a place to take the little bird.

  4. Definitely a feel good ending for a Sparrow that was rejected by his/her family for whatever reason :-).

  5. That is a truly lovely story. Thank you. And I love the shot of Phoebe Snow. And her name. Such a dignified name.

  6. Another great story, beautifully told. With a great last line!! Well done both of you.
    You created a beautiful garden in Mentor, I could really visualise it.

  7. Would you believe that here it is against the law to take in a wild bird and try to save it. You either have to get the proper registered person to look after it or leave it where it is to die. Insane.
    That is a delicious looking cat by the way.

  8. I always rescue the baby birds if I can though I have never tried to feed one for two weeks.

  9. Wonderful story! Our good friends had the same experience. A baby sparrow pushed out of the nest too soon. They took him home and fed him egg yolk and bird seeds from the end of a paintbrush. He grew and grew and they kept him in a little cage. Finally, he started to fly and he would go up into the trees around their back yard. But they would go out into the yard and call, "Mr. Cheeps!" and he would fly down to be fed. They even brought him camping with our families. Once they got back home, he stopped coming down to be fed. My friend saw him with a big bug, which he ate, so she figured he was all right. I even have pictures!