Shortly before lunch today, a breathless Anika came running into the house, calling, Mama, we need a container! A big one! With holes!! I could only imagine...I turned off the stove and took off after her to where Eliza was trying to scare off a neighborhood cat the girls call Daffodil. Apparently she had seen Daffodil chasing a young robin, running across several neighbors' backyards and at this point she was trying to not get too close to the bird but keep the eager kitty away.
She was thrilled when I suggested that she wade in after the bird to give it some distance from the waiting cat. I knew I had read that a mama bird will still care for its baby if a human has touched it; most songbirds have a poor sense of smell. It was so beautiful, probably very close to being able to fly, but it was most likely taking a little limb walk and fell. We walked it back a couple of backyards to where she had spotted its nest - she had been able to hear the parent freaking out as the cat chased its babe.
This is where I faltered a bit - the nest was too high for us to climb to - what should we do? I remembered when a swift had been hit by a passing cyclist out front and a vet tech came to our door asking if she could set it in a paper bag behind the bushes to recover. I ran home to get a paper bag and we set the wee bird in it. It began to flutter right away, knocking over the bag and trying to walk out, so I helped it out and we just sat there watching it. I knew it might get devoured by the cat, but that is a part of It All, isn't it?
It shuffled quickly off into the bushes, as if it had someplace to go. We made our way home to lunch, where we sat with the laptop, looking up all of our questions, the first being, what should you do if you find a baby bird??? The surprising answer was: do nothing. We didn't harm it by picking it up and moving it closer to its nest (and it would have been all right to return it to its nest if we had been able), but its mama will do her best to continue to feed it and then it is up to nature. It was a good reminder that there are critters out there who depend on things like wandering baby birds to survive. We also found out that most birds we see in our yard only live a year or so. Eliza wanted to know which birds live the longest - the answer seems to be several species of albatross! The rest of the birds on the "top ten" list of longevity were all seabirds - frigates, terns, puffins. Fascinating.
(and if you're wondering about E's get-up, she is on her third or fourth listening in 2 days to a story called Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, interestingly enough, about a young girl in India and her early marriage and subsequent widowhood - that is her version of a sari and bangles.)