Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

The Tree-Climbing, Thorn-Poking Baby Bird Caper July 2, 2008


This morning, in a desperate attempt to get the kids outside and some wiggles run off, I scooped up the baby, shoed up the kids and out the door we went for a run/scramble/crawl/walk around the condo complex. This is how it usually goes:

The kids run.
I scramble to keep up with them yelling “WALK SLOWLY”.
Eamonn sees a kitty and starts to crawl while alternating between “MEEEOOOWWW…HI KITTY!”
Ella, the good listener, walks slowly.

So that’s how this walk was going with the added benefit of Josiah in my arms for company. When we got to the waterfall I notice that a branch was broken on one of the trees and then on further inspection I found that there was a nest in the end of the part hanging down and that there were baby birds in the nest. Right about the time I took this all in and called the kids over to take a peek I heard lawn mowers start up. “Oh, Lord,” I thought in a slight baby-bird-related panic, “Today’s the day the landscapers are here. Please don’t let them cut the branch yet. Please!” And, sorting through frantic baby-bird-saving ideas in my mind, I hustled the kids back to the condo so I could figure out what to do.

I called the bird lady in Fallbrook and got a message. I looked online and just got a bunch of anonymous chastising from bird-folk who were more interested in assuming anyone trying to help baby birds were morons and that really the birds were FINE and who did I think I was and call the professionals and again WHO did I THINK I WAS? Really, honestly, never ask for bird advice online.

With all that helpful information I looked up to see all the landscapers working outside the patio doors and I went running out to find that their English was just as limited as my Spanish. Our conversation when something like this.

“Pardon, Senors! The tree? That tree? Es…uh…broken. El arbol? Er…no no lo ciento…um…BIRDS! Bebes? Los bebes?” I then flapped my arms to clarify. They all gazed at me, hedge trimmers, hedge clippers, and mowers frozen in their hands. “Um…El arbol as malo, y,…um….los bebes (flap flap) son en arbol!”

Please don’t be too impressed at my amazing Spanish. It just comes to me naturally as you can see.

“OOOOH! The…tree?” said one of the gardeners helpfully.

“SI!” I cried, delighted. “Si!”

“Ohhh…you no worry. We cut it already. Es…CUT” He did a ‘snip snip’ sign.

“Nooooo!” I cried.

This caused much Spanish discussion, gesticulation, pointing at me and concerned glances the direction of Ella who was now saying, “Aunt Mary…aren’t we going to SAVE the BABIES??”

“No…is okay!” The gardener attempted to explain again. “Is broken already. We just cut it trim nice!”

“No…oh…but THE BIRDS!” I flapped some more.

They all looked at each other, concerned (possibly about my sanity). “Lady…” began the gardener again, “the birds? They flying. They fly away. We just cut it. This all, we cut. Birds fly.”

“The flew away?” I asked, hopeful they meant the little furry babies I’d seen in the nest with barely any feathers. “All of them?”

“Yes.” He told me, looking at me with that kind of uncomfortable smile people get when they’re thinking, you might be super simple and they just now are realizing it. “Birds fly.”

“Ooooh! Good! I was so worried. Oh never mind I just…they…pequito! Los pequitos bebes!” I did a little flap and cheeped and then clutched my chest and wiped my hand across my forehead in the internationally acknowledged symbol for “Phew!” But now they looked worried again and much Spanish discussion happened again and there were lots of men and both kids saying “cheep cheep” a lot and one of the men made a nest with his hands and then they all gesticulated a lot and I helped out by pointing at the nest-hand man and shouting “SI! SI!”

The English-speaking gardener said, “I be RIGHT back!” and they all darted off around the corner.

I looked at Ella and Eamonn who looked back at me expectantly. “Well! Well then! The men said the birds flew away. So!” I tried to be relieved and convinced. The doorbell rang and I opened it and there stood the gardener. “You go around there. Okay?” He pointed back to the patio where another gardener was standing with a nest in his hands. They had, indeed, cut down the branch and were about to dispose of it but somehow, miraculously, the baby birds were in the nest still, unharmed. He handed them to me. “You take them. Okay? The mom, the dad, they fly. The babies okay, okay?” I nodded with an expression of what I can only think must have engendered no hope at all. “Now you put them…(he waved his hand in a general way indicating I put them SOMEwhere) and you come. You see the mom, the dad. Okay?”

We put the birds in a basket and the kids and I all trooped over to where the gardeners had last seen what they thought were the parent birds, they all patted me on the back and kept saying, “Is okay. Okay? Is okay.” And then they all trooped away to pack up their equipment and head to another part of the complex.

Luckily I got hold of my friend Ann who has rescued quite a few baby birds thanks to her cat, and she had me go out to check to see whether the mother and father were anywhere around. (It is an old wife’s tale that birds will reject their young if touched by humans…they can’t smell well and generally will take their young back and search frantically for them in the meantime. I didn’t know that until today. My friend Aimee, who knows a lot about animals and helped me with information via IM confirmed this as well.) The parents were there again, frantically searching the tree for their babies and I was horribly aware that, if I were going to try to get those birds back up in that tree it was going to have to be with help — A ladder wasn’t going to do the trick. But Ann said she could come to help me.

So the kids stared at the four baby birds and cooed to them while we waited for her to arrive. There was much discussion about naming the birds. I said ‘no’ and Ella said, ‘But I think one of them is named Betsy!’ She was mollified by my explanation that these were wild birds and that meant God already knew their names and so we didn’t need to make up new ones for them. They were SO good about not touching them, and only speaking quietly to them, and mostly leaving them alone so “they could rest.” (Babies need lots of sleep, you see. Even bird babies.) And then Ann arrived ready for action.

If you ever wanted to know what it looks like when two adult women climb a tree with thorns all over it trying not to drop four baby birds out of a delicate nest while a two-year-old tried to go swimming in a public fountain, you could have found out today. It’s quite the caper, let me tell you. I climbed the tree and immediately got vertigo when Ann handed me the babies. So we got them into the crotch of two branches so that we could climb up further and she could hand them to me in a less precarious position, and I finally, thankfully and with much prayer wedged the nest into a high, high, high branchy outcropping and wedged sticks underneath to further steady the birds so they wouldn’t come tumbling out.

Immediately once the birds were settled they began to vocalize, peeping loudly for their parents and quickly after that we began hearing the very distinctive voices of the parents in return.

The little birds were safe, I had a few thorn pokes, and we all had a sense of extreme accomplishment and relief. Last I checked I couldn’t see any of the parents (the nest is REALLY high and hidden) but I could hear both adult and baby noises from that part of the tree. I will check on them once tomorrow, but I’m about 99% sure the parents have found them again and I’m hoping they try to attack me and chase me away as soon as I get near.

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2 Responses to “The Tree-Climbing, Thorn-Poking Baby Bird Caper”

  1. sunnierdays Says:

    Yay Mary!!!

  2. Mel Says:

    My dear Mary, may I just say that I’m more proud of you than I’ve ever been before? I thought I was the only person in this family that was such a emphatic animal lover. I am after all, the rescuer of all things… squirrels, birds, kittens, even (some of) the little spiders and flies that find there way into the house and can’t find their way back out! And I’m just so pleased to know that you’ll go that extra mile (and a half, for the spanish speaking) for the helpless little creatures. Also just to confirm what you already learned, it’s true about mommy and daddy birds accepting babies back even after being “rescued” by we human beings. I’m SO proud of you for all your effort, and I’m SO happy that you were able to reinvent the branch for the birds. You’re so awesome! Now, let me say though. It’s been almost a week, and I’m still waiting for the update on Betsy and her siblings. Please, do share! I love you, and Happy Belated 4th! XOXOXOXO


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