There has been a juvenile junco doing daredevil flights from a neighbor’s porch on the second floor. In the two and a half years since living here, many birds have flown into the windows on the porch, but they don’t usually zip in from the east out to the forest in the west. Living on the first floor means that there is a porch above me. A new neighbor on the second floor and also next door, has birdfeeders out. Most of the time, the birds are flocked on their porch and my dog, Birdie, and I have the joy of watching bird antics from our porch. There is one of the young’uns that loves to take a challenge.
The other day, I thought it was a juvenile mockingbird as it dove at my sleeping dog melted in a porch sunbeam. Birdie was as surprised as I was because if there’s sun, we are on the porch in the mornings. The dog looked at me clearly asking what had happened with a “what did I do wrong?” look on her face. She is such a sensitive soul. At the time, I laughed thinking that the young bird couldn’t tell that the dog was harmless even if it had a nest nearby.
Later, I saw several juvenile juncos that had tails similar to the mockingbird. Then, I tried to remember the last time I’ve seen a mockingbird, and it wasn’t on this side of the mountain. Maybe they are up at our elevation, I simply don’t remember seeing them. In my mind, the bird that startled my dog was the same little daredevil that had been zipping through the porch area.
There is a patio umbrella that came with the porch furniture. When the spring begins, I put the umbrella up. When I first moved here, I didn’t understand why since it is rather shady on my porch, but the umbrella is protection for when the visitors above forget that someone lives below. In these past few years, I’ve enjoyed watching the red squirrel and different birds check out the umbrella. Today, the umbrella caused an accident. Well, my movement of the umbrella caused an accident.
This winter was drearier than most even before COVID-19 became the constant news. There have been more rainy days than past winters. The rain even replaced the snow of previous winters. Somehow, snow isn’t as dreary as a constant rain to me. Even the dog, who doesn’t usually mind rain, is tired of rainy days. Some days it’s clear that Birdie thinks I can stop them. I see the plea in her eye to stop them. Needless to say, we both need more sunshine.
In the past couple of weeks, it has gotten warm enough that if there is no rain, the dog and I can sit on the porch. Birdie has even learned the word, “sunshine”. I can tell, for on the mornings where the sun is out, I call out to the dog hiding in the bed (she usually sleeps until 11:30), that there’s sunshine on the porch and she hops up joyfully to run outside. To the left, there’s a photo before hearing the words, “There’s sunshine on the porch.”
When she gets too hot in her chair, she takes a break by moving to the floor in the sunbeam. If she gets really hot, she might take a break in the shade, or just steal my chair where it’s not so direct a beam.
Sitting in a corner across from the dog, I write of dreams from last night. The wind blows and makes it chillier so I tilt that umbrella away from me to allow the sun to warm my back. Next, I hear a fluttering of wings and look towards the area where the bird often flies through. Birdie heard it too and is looking. Then I see it, a bird on the mesh patio table.
I cry out, “Oh No” and wonder if the bird had slammed into the glass, but it would have been on the porch floor if that was the case. Instead, it was on the table just to the left of my meditation books. I rush to get gloves so that I can gently move the bird from the mesh table to a place where it can fly away if it comes back from being stunned. At least 50% of the birds have survived slamming into the glass.
Birdie is looking for the bird and trying to figure out what is going on. Luckily, I keep gardening gloves just inside the door so that I can grab them before the dog finds the bird. She is an excellent dog, but she has a strong hunter drive. She locates the bird on the underside of the table and I tell her to leave it. I wondered if the bird had tried to light on the table and gotten its foot caught.
Once, while riding bikes with my sister when we were kids, a sparrow was hanging upside down from a barb in a barbed-wire fence. It made us sad so I went to get the bird down to bury it. The sudden flutter of wings startled me because we thought the bird was dead. As soon as I freed its little foot, it flew away. I prayed that this little bird would fly away too.
As I freed this bird’s little feet, its chest heaved. The bird’s feet were not caught. I gently placed the bird at the foot of where I keep a St. Francis. I made sure its little wings wouldn’t get broken if it started suddenly. Then, I stepped away wondering if in just a moment it would take to flight. I could see its little chest still breathing. It tried to move. I was unsure of how to proceed. Lees McRae has a wildlife center, but do they have anyone there since COVID sent all students home? Then it was clear that the bird’s fate was up to what little I could do because even if they were open, in the past, my bird rescues meant taking the bird to a refuge. Though I have a trike now, I can’t make it more than two miles on the mountain.
I went to the bird and held my hands cupped over the bird’s body. I knew not to touch it with my hands but hoped that at least the warmth of my hands would keep it warm enough until it could come to from being stunned. Then, an adult junco lights on the porch watching me. With her right eye accusing me, I apologize aloud to the adult junco simultaneously figuring it was a mama bird watching her baby learn to fly. Then, all I could think to do was to kneel and pray to G-d, to St. Francis, to help the bird to life. Then I told the bird to be strong by saying, “hang in there little birdy.”
Of course, that confused the dog since the words sounded the same. I told the dog she was a good girl, and then she knew that I was protecting the bird. She sat to my right knee attentively listening to me beg G-d for the bird to live and trying to encourage the bird to keep fighting. Do dogs pray? It sure felt like Birdie was praying with me. Though she may not know what prayer really means, she does know that I do the same thing for her when she is sick. She knew the bird was hurt. The bird then moved and I could tell because its little feet moved. I quickly moved my hand away, hoping it would stand, then fly away. It stretched out its right wing. Then, the dog and I watched as it took its last breath.
I bury the bird at the foot of the fern moss stump. Tomorrow we will offer sunflower seeds to the other birds as a memorial. The mother bird flew to a branch near the porch and I told her I was sorry. Another juvenile, a sister/brother/sibling stopped at the tree too. I said I was sorry to the sibling bird and my heart still grieves hours later.