Chronicle of a Bird Encounter…Part One

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hKurt walked into the family room, wiping rain from his glasses.

“There’s a fledgling out there. I think it fell out of a nest during the storm.”

“What? Where!?” I asked.

“Right out under the birch tree,”  he replied.

“Where’s Juniper?” I asked, immediately worried about our ferocious beast of a cat.

“She’s out there, too,” he said.

“What!?!” I squawked. Quickly I threw on shoes and ran outside, barely listening to Kurt’s continued comments.

“I don’t think she’s touched her…the bird was upside down under the tree…I doubt it will make it…”

Sure enough under the birch, through the dark and rain, I saw a bedraggled mound of feathers. Nearby was Juniper, our beast of a cat. Luckily, as far as I could tell, she had not yet pounced. I raced over and quickly scooped her up with, I confess, some fear for my continued health and well-being, and dumped her inside. Quickly shutting the door, I walked back out to take a look at the bird. I crouched down in the grass speaking softly to it.

bird.jpg“Hey, baby bird, what’s up? Did you take a spill? Where’s your nest?”

The bird was upright, but still looked pretty pathetic, sitting in the grass with damp, black wings semi-splayed to each side. It was hard to see colors on the rain-darkened feathers, but it looked like there were some spots of white. What kind of bird is it? White spots…big beak…I wonder if it’s a woodpecker?

Slowly I reached my hand toward it and immediately it fluttered, opened its beak and lunged toward me threateningly. I quickly pulled my hand back. (Confession: Lunge might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it definitely poked in my direction. I had a quick flashback to those raptors in Jurassic Park, expecting a loud rattling hiss to emerge from that little throat. I mean birds are related to dinosaurs, right? And that beak looked pretty large!)

Jurassic Park Dilophosaurus GIF

I regrouped and chided myself. Physical bravery has never been my forte, but this wee, soaking-wet, disheveled bird was clearly not going to injure me. Get a grip, Molly! Again, I looked down at it. The poor thing was clearly unable to move to safety and the rain continued to fall. Could its parents be waiting nearby? Should I move it into a tree?

Uncertain what to do, I went back inside and posted on a birding site that I’m a member of:

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.18.41 PM.png

After a few minutes of anxiously waiting for a response, I was relieved to see the advice finally start flowing. Many people immediately suggested leaving it alone. One charmer advised me to set the oven to 350 degrees. Multiple people suggested calling Avian Haven, a wild bird rehabilitation center, for help. Unfortunately, a quick call confirmed that they were closed for the evening.

One vocal poster opted to lecture me about having an outdoor cat in the first place. This led to a tangential fire storm of posts as people rebuked him for giving unsolicited, unrelated commentary and advice, and he responded by posting multiple articles about cats and how they devastate the environment. This roused the cat lovers. He then suggested that cat owners who let their cats outside were inhumane and irresponsible, just letting their vulnerable cats out to die somewhere, victims of wild animal attacks. I’m not quite clear what his point was–that cats are killers or that they will be killed. Maybe both? That thread got a little heated and out of control and by the following morning was removed by administrators. I steered clear.

Meanwhile, I focused on the sane portion of the post, trying to figure out what to do.  The bird clearly was vulnerable where it was, but so often the experts say that people tend to intervene when they shouldn’t. Finally, after a bit of research on the Avian Haven site and the consensus on the posts, I posted the following, still uncertain this was the correct course:

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.23.19 PM.png

Shortly after posting that, I got a request to accept a private message. When I accepted it, I got this message.

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.25.19 PM.png

Change of plans. I wasn’t going to argue with an expert. I scrambled around the house assembling supplies, then quickly prepped a box. Dashing back out into the rain, I gently scooped up the fledgling, careful to avoid its beak. It struggled against my hands, but when I settled it on the soft towels in the box, it sat quite still. Clearly, this bird was shaken up. Poor little thing. I closed up the box and set it in the mudroom, crossing my fingers that I was doing the right thing and that the bird would make it until morning.

To be continued…

25 thoughts on “Chronicle of a Bird Encounter…Part One

  1. Christine says:

    Your post has me waiting in suspense. I hope that this bird ordeal has a happy ending for all.
    And on another note – why do some people feel its ok to ruin our simple little social media requests?

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      This guy was quite self-righteous, though he did offer his ideas about helping the bird as well. I think with posts like this, ignoring is the way to go. The well-intentioned posters who “stood up” for me (“She wasn’t asking that!” etc.) merely stoked the fire for him. I imagine these people lack extensive social networks?


  2. You capture the drama of your evening nicely. Can’t wait for your next post. I’ve heard the first advice (i.e. leave it alone). My gut likes the wisdom of the towel in the box.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      The leave it alone advice didn’t sit well and I felt much better once the bird was safely ensconced in the box. By the way, once I realized my post was getting way too long, my idea to post it in parts came from your blog. Thanks for the inspiration!


      • Clearly, some of my most popular blogs are those with parts 2 and 3 suspense. I am also evolving to one page (500 words or less postings). It’s been an interesting challenge. In fact, I think the pieces become more readable and less endurance.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tara Smith says:

    Two responses to this post. Good grief about the people who shared unsolicited and inane advice! And relief about the private (and quiet) message from someone who knew exactly what to do. Thank goodness for that! Can’t wait for the next installment of this story!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Fran Haley says:

    What a cliffhanger! I have fretted over my baby finches’ safety since their mother laid the eggs, and of course they’re perfectly fine (those last two are still in the nest this morning, drowsing). So, if I’d found a fledgling on the ground as you did … distraught is the word that comes to mind. I admire your presence of mind to seek help the way that you did. I can’t believe – well, yes, I can! – how people lose sight of what’s important and virtually attack one another. We are an absurd species sometimes. Do let us know what becomes of this little bird; I am thankful for your watchful eye and sheltering haven.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      It’s so nice to know that I am in good company when I’m fretting about creatures I encounter in the wild. I felt like I was cheating a bit on slicing by continuing it, but it evolved into a much longer post. I’m hoping to wrap it up in three installments total. By the way, your finch series was charming!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Fran Haley says:

        It’s not cheating at all to slice your slice into more manageable chunks; it’s wise! You listened to your inner writer, which is exactly what we all should do. Ignore those feelings/voices of doubt. You left us wanting more. 🙂


  5. dmsherriff says:

    Agree with Fran, what a cliff hanger! I am left praying for the bird and that morning phone call. As usual, you have captured a slice of your life with a wonderful piece of writing. Your conversation lead pulls us in – I was filled with anticipation from the get go and then the piece slows down as you do your research. Embedded in this slice is the slice about the debate between indoor and outdoor cats – (that part could stand on it’s own!) But you wove it all together seamlessly – can’t wait for part 2! Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Dana Murphy says:

    Oh my goodness, this is so wonderful. I love how impassioned you are about saving this baby bird.

    As a writer, I am simply enamored with your word choice in this post. I feel like printing a copy and giving it to my fifth graders and saying, “Circle the interesting words she used.” It’s so great to read, and your word choice is superb.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is a great read. Can not wait to find out what happens next! Thanks for sharing! Typically, I don’t like birds but when one is in trouble, especially a baby, that’s a different story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Thanks! I love birds and I’ve spent lots of time this summer trying to photograph them, with mixed success. I was determined to help this poor little guy. It’s a good thing that babies awaken our protective instincts across all species, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • True! And I must admit that I like birds much more now than I used to. I had a couple of bad experiences with them when I was growing up and it colored my view of them. Now – however, I love watching my hummingbirds and gold finches and cardinals visit our yard. We occasionally get a hawk or bald eagle too! So, I feel differently that I used to. I love how you were so passionate about saving the baby woodpecker!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. margaretsmn says:

    I enjoyed reading about your bird adventure and look forward to parts 2 & 3. I don’t understand people sometimes. The cat argument was not at all helpful or on topic. I have a few bird rescue stories that don’t all end well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I frequently don’t understand people. Even the people who were trying to be “helpful” added to the chaos. Like I said, I just steered clear of that conversation! By the way, I think this might actually be a 4 part adventure! It’s been interesting to write a longer story, so I’m just going with it! Hope you’re enjoying your start to the year!


  9. Oh no, Molly! i need to know what happened next. Poor little bird! It’s coloring/pattern (black with white speckles) reminds me of a Starling, but that’s quite a beak, so not sure. And as for all that unsolicited commentary/advice, good grief! Keep us posted!

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      The picture quality certainly doesn’t lend itself to id’ing–my phone in the rain and dark! Quite a few people on the Facebook Bird site also thought it was a starling. (Some people suggested that due to that, I shouldn’t try to rescue it, as it’s an invasive species!) I’m posting the next installment with another photo today, so you can see what you think then.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. […] Part One (here) I shared my discovery of a fledgling out of its nest and my decision to take it in overnight. I […]


  11. […] Part 1 describes how I took an injured fledgling in. Part 2 ended with me debating about whether to release the bird before talking to an expert. […]


  12. […] Slice of Life, and it evolved into a 4-part series! (If you’re interested, the first part is here.) In short, I’ve got birds on the brain, so Christie Wyman’s bird-related poem […]


  13. […] Part 1 described how I took an injured fledgling in. Part 2 ended with me debating about whether to release the bird before talking to an expert. Part 3 described the release and recapture of the bird. […]


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