Tuesday, June 1, 2010

in memoriam

I could tell by her approach, at dusk, that she was not quite alone. That she had... something. Her gait not as lithe, a shadow on her white chest, her steps, a little tentative.

It was a small bird, coloring to match hers. Wings sticking out of her mouth on two sides. Held gently, all things relative. (No doubt to prolong the utility of the still-living toy.)

It took some effort, but I got the bird, chased away the cat. The cat, ours. The bird, no one's.

The bird had a tiny wing wound, and a spot on her short, fragile neck where feathers were missing. I put a tiny spot of Neosporin on the wound, some vitamin E oil.

I attempted to nurse it to health. Put it in a box. With newspaper, New York Times articles referencing the disaster in the Gulf. A soft nest in one corner of paper towel. I took to calling it "her."

By morning, she seemed to be surprisingly doing well. She would hop a little, and chirp loudly, fly a short distance in the bathroom. Young, but feathered. Not a baby bird - but small bits of fluff still clung just under her wings. An adolescent that Annabeth dubbed "Fred."

While articles on the web seemed to align, faithfully telling me not to attempt to raise a small, especially wounded bird, on my own - wildlife rehab centers are closed on Memorial Day.

Annabeth was especially concerned. She didn't sleep the first night, convinced the bird would die. She said prayers, she cried, she woke up - propelled to find us two floors below - caught in an un-recountable nightmare.

I attempted to feed the bird - water, which she drank a little of; a watery cat food mixture, a tiny bit of mushy banana. She wouldn't eat. Her chirps continued, but her hops looked more enfeebled.

I was twitchy that second night. Job hunting online, unwilling - somehow - to go to bed. Eventually, I gave up. I opened the closed bathroom door, annoyed that the light had been left on. I looked in the box. She had given up, too. More thoroughly than I.

One bird. Taken by one cat. I dug a hole, chipping through Georgia clay and poorly disguised construction debris. Ten short inches down, maybe a foot. I said a quiet prayer. It was two AM.

When Annabeth wakes up, it will be June. And there will be no little bird to drive out to the rehab center - our one plan for the first day of the first full week of summer. She will cry, and I will feel responsible.

Innocent bird, gone. Guilty cat, here. It is her nature to feed on the small things, coloring matching hers. It is her wont to crouch in the grass, pounce, take, celebrate. We will love her no less, and we will mourn her next victory.

1 comment:

  1. It's really easy to prevent this: keep your cat indoors. Always. If your cat is already raised to "want out" then at a minimum keep it indoors during dawn-to-dusk hours of baby bird season, when fledglings are near or on the ground and most vulnerable to attack. But really year-round indoors is the answer. It's natural for cats to prey in small things that move, but our house cats are not a part if the natural food chain and don't have a place anywhere near it. See Cats Indoors! Campaign of American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org), Audubon, and other bird conservation organizations. Cat attacks are leading contributors to
    millions of preventable bird deaths every year (right up there with window impacts, which we can also do something about). As cat (and dog) owners we own the responsibility to keep native wildlife safe from our pets. Please use your compassion for this lost bird you are memorializing to spread the word about Cats Indoors! We can't fix the oil spill but there are these other things we can do for our native wild birds. Because it matters. Thank you for the space to post here, from a very passionate bird rehab volunteer.