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.
And now the finale…
After talking with the local volunteer, I offered to drive the bird to her home. I grabbed my purse and the carrier box and walked out to the car. Once there I put the box carefully on the front seat, talking to the bird all the while.
“It’s okay. You’re probably not going to like this, but it won’t last too long.”
I climbed in, started the car, turned on my audiobook and headed out. I deliberately chose to take the back roads, thinking that might be better than moving at high speed, especially since my AC is defunct and I’m driving with windows open. As the heat increased, I lowered the window further and turned up the audiobook a bit so I could hear it over the noise. Suddenly, I heard a rattling, vibrating sound.
Is that my phone? I checked. No.
The noise got louder. What is that? Is that my car? The audiobook? What?!? …
Oh, no! OMG, the sound is coming from the box! It’s the bird! In a sudden horrifying burst of insight, I realized I was bombarding the bird with stimulus–car ride, wind streaming through windows and loud audio book chatter. Quickly, I turned off the audiobook, and rolled up the windows.
“Oh, no! I’m so sorry!!!” I said. “I just didn’t think! That must have been horrible for you. So many noises and voices. I’m sorry!! I’m so sorry!”
“Shhhhh….shhhhhh….” I continued, awkwardly patting the cardboard container. Then, realizing that was probably stressing the bird out as well, I reluctantly moved my hand away and stopped talking.
The terrible noise continued for about a minute. It was like nothing I’d ever heard before. Then suddenly, it stopped. The car was silent.
I looked at the box.
After a few minutes of continued silence, I began to fret.
OMG. Is it dead? Was that noise its death call? It sounded awful.
I glanced over at the box again.
“Are you okay in there?” I whispered.
Oh, no. I killed it. I totally stressed it out and now its dead. It probably had a bird heart attack. (Do birds even have heart attacks?) I’m going to arrive at the volunteer’s house with a dead bird in a box. I’m going to start crying on her doorstep. Poor bird. Poor volunteer.
I drove on, fingers gripping the steering wheel tightly, casting anxious side-long glances at the ominously silent box.
Finally, I arrived at the volunteer’s house. I pulled in the driveway and parked. I turned and looked at the box. I wanted to open it and check, but also didn’t. I sat for a minute. Staring at the box. Working up my courage. Taking a deep breath, I slowly reached over and moved the cardboard flaps, gently parting them so I could peek inside.
The bird sat, just where I had placed it, looking up at me. Clearly alive. I heaved a huge sigh of relief.
“Oh, thank goodness, you’re okay.”
I gathered up the shreds of my composure and the cat carrier, wiped the sweat off my brow, and headed up the path to the house.
The volunteer opened the door and invited me in. I set the carrier on the floor.
“Great,” she said. “Thanks. I’ll be taking it up to the center today with another bird. I’ll just set it up now with some food and water.”
This was clearly a cue for me to depart, but I hesitated, reluctant to leave.
“I know they take in lots of birds,” I said. “I guess they can’t let everyone know what happens…” I trailed off suggestively, hopefully.
“They’ve already cared for almost 1500 birds this year,” she replied matter-of-factly, not picking up on my hint, or ignoring it.
“Oh, well, um, can you at least tell if it’s a woodpecker?”
She pulled back the cardboard flaps and peeked in the box. “I’m pretty sure it is, but I’m not sure what kind,” she replied. “It’s hard to tell with fledglings. I’ll let you know if I find out when I drop it off.”
I stood in her foyer for a moment longer. Finally, after saying goodbye out loud to the volunteer (and in my head to the bird), I slowly walked out the door. This felt so weird. After all the worry and wondering, it was now out of my hands. I got in my car and slowly drove away. It was odd knowing that I would probably never know what happened to the bird. After fully occupying my brain for the past 15 hours or so, now it was ….gone.
I never did hear from the volunteer again. I’ve considered calling the center to ask about the bird’s welfare, but I keep hearing the volunteer say “They’ve already cared for more than 1500 birds this year.” Clearly, they don’t need to spend their time answering curious, superfluous phone calls.
I still think about the bird a lot and about the whole experience, replaying it from the initial choice to intervene, to the moment I handed the bird over to the experts. Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, we never know the outcome of our actions. Over the course of this saga, I was plagued with indecision, operating well out of my areas of expertise. I could probably have made better choices along the way, but ultimately, with this one bird, on this one day, I tried to help and make a positive difference. I guess knowing that will have to be enough.