Monday, April 30, 2007

Birds of a Feather...Flock to the Bakers'


So, yesterday was Sunday. A good day. Beautiful, clear-blue skies. A day of rest and relaxation. Sunday is a good day in so many ways....except when you find a baby bird that has fallen out of its nest and EVERY PLACE THAT CAN DEAL WITH IT IS CLOSED! Here is how the story unfolds:

I was getting out of my car, about to get Lola's seat from the back when something caught my eye. I saw what appeared to be a fuzzy mound of cream-colored mold at the base of our tree. The little ball of "mold" was sitting on top of a large root coming out from the base of the tree. I thought, "how strange". I looked a bit harder and the mound of mold raised its head! AHHHHHHH. Holy crap, what kind of mutant fungi is this? But oh no, it was a baby bird that must have either been a bit too eager to try to "fly the coop" or perhaps it was the unfortunate loser of a WWF-style nest squabble with its siblings. Whatever the reason, this pitiful little creature was sprawled out on the ground a good 15 feet below where its nest most likely was. I freaked out. Our dogs were running around the yard while Matt was working outside and I had instant visions of our dogs thinking, "wooof, woof, this squeaky toy is cool!". I assumed the wide-leg sumo wrestling position around the baby bird, warding off any incoming pounces from our dogs and SCREAMED for Matt. He left his work in the flower beds, quite annoyed and came to my rescue. We wrangled the dogs and I made Matt scoop it up with his garden gloves. It was so young and helpless and UGLY! Poor thing. It looked like it just wasn't quite "done yet" and needed a bit more time either in its egg or in a warm nest that could have perhaps transformed this hideous little creature into a beautiful swan...or, errrr....a HAWK? Yes. We had found a baby hawk (after identifying it online). Long-legged, long necked, dark beaked and scrawny. It had just enough cream fuzz on its body to make it resemble what grows in a petri dish in most highschool biology classes.

So. It was Sunday (as I previously stated). A day of rest for so many: wildlife rehabilitation experts, the Lodi animal shelter, vet offices, and the Micke Grove Zoo. But NOT a day of rest for me. I was totally stressing about this little bird's role in the food chain and about my responsibility to keep it alive (so it can eat the mice and other pesky rodents that roam the country, terrorizing the likes of city girls like me). We placed it in a shoe box with holes and tried to make a nest for it out of rags. With no expert advice on how to keep a baby hawk alive for 24 hours without a mamma bird, food or nest, I went to the Internet. Everything I found said, "if you find a baby bird on the ground, LEAVE IT". They must be nuts. This poor little thing would not have survived 10 more minutes in our yard of insane dogs. The online experts said, "if it has tail feathers, try to run it off into some bushes or a more sheltered area....or try to make a nest out of a margarine tub, place the bird inside and nail the tub up in a tree as a temporary nest where its mother can then find it. YEAH RIGHT! This bird was first of all not much more developed than what I crack into my frying skillet in the morning and in NO WAY could be made to "run off" into a sheltered area. And I would not even consider shimmying up a tree to try to put the bird back. Back where???? I understand the idea of the "survival of the fittest", but allowing that to happen with this little creature just seemed cruel.

And so began our evening of twiddling our thumbs and nervously checking to see if the bird was still alive hour after hour. At around 8pm, I decided to try to hydrate the poor little thing. We had a medicine dropper and filled it with water. As soon as we tapped its tiny beak with it, the little ball of mold came alive, stretching out its ugly little neck and cracking open its beady little eyes, desperate for a bit of food. It is a hard task dropper-feeding a baby hawk. Just let me tell you. Despite the fact that I refused to touch it (due to thoughts of bird flu dancing through my head), it is REALLY hard not to drown the poor thing while trying to introduce just a drop of water at a time. At one point I thought we had killed it. It just sat there, gurgling water- motionless. That was it. I was done playing mamma bird. At least it wasn't thirsty any more. But it must be hungry, right? What the heck do I feed a "bird of prey"? If it was a baby sparrow or blue jay, I could have chopped up a garden worm and tried to squeeze some into its mouth. But how the heck do you feed a baby carnivore? Do I hunt down a mouse and put it in the blender? Or do I chew up some raw steak and spit it down its throat? Good God. After these contemplations, I figured he was fine with just water.

We brought the shoe box inside and placed it on our coffee table where we heard "cheep, cheep" ALL NIGHT LONG! When I woke up it was quiet. I figured that the poor thing had died during the night and I would just have to burry it. But upon lifting the lid he came alive! He stretched out his long fuzzy neck and screamed for food. I was not going to try to figure that one out again. So I started with the phone calls. Thank God the Lodi animal shelter agreed to take him and pass him off to a lady that rehabilitates these little guys. So, I loaded him up and put the box on the front seat. I tried to ignore the other baby bird that lay dead in the same spot that I found the first. I couldn't do anything for that little hawk, but I was trying my darnedest to save this one. I arrived at the shelter and was met by an Animal Protection Officer with the Lodi PD. She opened the box, scooped the bird up with her BARE HANDS and said, "cool...its a hawk!" Glad she thought it was so cool because at this point I just wanted it off my hands. She opened up her breast pocket and plunked him inside saying, "he needs to get warm". After seeing the mess he left in the bottom of his box overnight, I couldn't help but cringe. I am, and always will be an animal lover. Perhaps this is why God always puts them in my path. Good ol' Catholic guilt does not allow me to just pass by. I didn't know if this little hawk would make it, but at least he made it through the 24 hours in my house without dying and making me feel horrible for not saving it. I am so grateful for that. So now he is poopy-pocket-officer's responsibility and I am happy about that. Good luck little buddy. Live long...prosper...and hopefully, become more attractive in the process!


P.S. 2 images attached