Following a quick but torrential downpour and some gusty winds, the S.O. discovered a fledgling robin scooting around between the dying iris foliage in our front yard. The linden tree immediately nearby is the most likely place it came from, although there were no nests that could be immediately spotted. Perhaps it fell from very high up.
The woman who lives across the street feeds a multitude of feral cats (a major sore point for me) and the people who live a few houses down on either side of us let their own cats run free throughout the neighborhood (another big sore point). Cats cruise our yard like sharks. They kill often enough that while out walking the dog it is not unusual to come across the remnants of songbirds on the sidewalks. Given that, I figured if I left this little guy flapping around on the front lawn, it wasn’t going to last very long at all.
I very gingerly picked up the wet little bird. It squawked at me in alarm and looked at me with its large, beautiful dark eye. Some of its downy under-feathers came off and stuck to my hand. It was so fragile, such light, delicate little bones, so I tried to contain it using as little pressure as possible.
Looking around for a safer place to put it, there were no trees with branches low enough to reach, so I tried placing in in the tall Rose of Sharon bush by the porch. But it would not grip the branch with its feet and immediately tumbled down into a tangle of weeds and old, wilted Lily-of-the-Valley leaves below. I then went into the house to find a box to put it in until I could decide what would be the best thing to do for it.
When I came back outside, it was wedged between the stalks of plant debris it had fallen into. Trying to pick it up, it then scurried through a hole in the lattice fence underneath the porch. I figured at least it was safe from any marauding felines for the moment, and also in a dry place out of the rain. Later on I took a flashlight and tried to locate it, but it was getting too dark out to see, so I decided to check on it in the morning, hoping it might remain there overnight.
This morning when I peered through the porch lattice, the little bird was still there. It was gasping and trying to move its wings – the situation looked critical. I started to cry and went hollering for the S.O. to come outside and pull the lattice off the house so I could get to the bird. He did that. It was moving its legs and one wing feebly and its once beautiful dark eyes were an opaque, whitish blue. Not good. Placing it into a box while frantically scrolling through Google to find the number of any local bird rescuer, my call went to her voicemail, so left a message and also texted her too. And then I watched the little bird start to die.
By the time the wildlife rehabilitator called me back (which felt like an eternity but in actuality was only ten minutes) the bird was lifeless.
Please little bird, don’t be dead. Please, please don’t be dead. I stroked it’s little feathered body gently with a fingertip. I cried. No, I actually bawled and wailed. I’ve been crying all day. Over a little dead bird. Of course maybe it was more than just the bird. Of course it was.
This past week has been a weird one. Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the death of a very old, very close friend. To compound that, it also marked the birthdays, one day after another, of two close childhood friends who had died fairly young. I had been thinking of all of them as these anniversary dates ticked off throughout the week, walking around in sort of a leaden haze, a pervasive shadow in my peripheral vision, a floater that keeps rising up and moves away when you try to look at it. Sadness, but in a mature keeping-it-together, “que sera sera” kind of way. And then this bird thing happens and the floodgates open. Who am I crying for? Maybe all of them. Maybe me. Grief by proxy.
It reminded me of my sister who remained stoic and unable to cry after our father passed away. And then her pet rat Bubba died and she was beyond a mess. I kind of think it might be a little bit like that. Perhaps the robin provided a conduit to vent my tears.
But back to the bird situation – usually I would leave a fledgling alone and see what happened. In this case though, it would not have had a chance in our yard. Even as I was scooping it up I could see a couple of the local cats hanging around the neighbor’s driveway from where I stood. Yet I question myself. Should I have not picked it up? Did I hold it too firmly? Did I cause its death while trying to save it? Was it actually already injured beyond hope? Should I have left it for the cats? Did it suffer? Should I have tried to get it out from under the porch last night and not waited? I think probably that. If I could do it over, I would have gotten it to a rehabilitator immediately. I feel like my heart is breaking today.
I wrapped the fledgling in a couple of large hosta leaves from my garden and decorated it with a few flowers before laying it into the ground in the backyard. I would like to find a beautiful rock to place over it.
Oh, little bird! I am so sorry.