Avian Search and Rescue

I need to tell you about the birds.

They lived in the eave of our house from the moment light first beamed through that initial crack of the shell.  Their mama had picked the safest place possible.  The opening created by 30 years of rain on now rotting wood was just big enough for the full-grown female grackle to pop in and out, first carrying in strands of grass, string and paper, then leaving just for brief moments of nourishment during the egg-guarding days, and finally returning each morning with worms in her beak, uneaten, to be delivered to her babies and their directly vertical, gaping beaks.

We watched this process from the back deck.  Saw the mother in and out, then eventually heard the tinkling peeps, saw the mother returning with worms, heard the peeps grow stronger.

Partially because of the birds we began to notice more closely the dilapated condition of certain parts of our house.  It was time for repairs.  We contracted with a company for new gutters, new soffits, and new windows, basically everything you could do to the outside of a house except the siding.  At the corner where the bird nest was located, they would replace the rotting wood and then cover it with vinyl wrapped aluminum — siding material.  I was hoping the birds would be grown and gone by then, but was determined to have the workers remove nest and birds to a nearby tree if adolescence had not yet been reached.

And here’s what happened.  The workers came.  They did their job.  And the birds were sealed up into our roof.  It doesn’t matter who is responsible or how it happened.  It only matters that the next day we were met with two dogs and at least one cat staring intently at a wall in our house that had mysteriously begun to flutter.   A bird, how big we did not know, had hopped its way across our attic and dropped into a wall.  And for 24 hours we listened, fretted, and debated what to do.

What we did was to save the birds.   I got my drill and put on the big round drill bit designed to cut a hole for a door knob.  Then we started surgery on our wall.  After three conjoining holes were completed, the bird flew out and landed on our mantle, then to the couch.  Susie caught it in both hands.  I filled a dropper with water and we tried to give it a drink.  We went outside and I found a worm, cut off a half-inch piece and tried to drop it into the shocked bird’s mouth.  We set it on the woodpile and went inside, leaving nature in charge.

We felt pretty good about ourselves for a few minutes, even with a swiss cheese wall, and then we heard it again.  More fluttering.  Same wall.  Between two different studs.  Out with the drill, more holes, another bird delivered to the outside world.

It was one of those events that stays with you for awhile.  It felt huge on some level.  We had saved two lives and ruined one wall.  It seemed like an obvious trade-off.

After they sealed up the eave, we watched the mother bird return for several mornings desperately trying to find the hole leading to her children.  It was heart-wrenching, and I hoped later that they managed to find each other again after our rescue, but I’m not sure nature works that way.

I’m not sure what the lesson was for me.  Children leave, sometimes in non-traditional ways?  All life has value?  Letting nature take it’s course sometimes requires our involvement since we’re nature too?  D, all of the above?

Or maybe the lesson is . . . if you ever have a bird stuck in your wall, forego the interior design debate.  Just get your drill.

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