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Divine Intervention

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Baker loves phoebes. He also likes to sit on my lap while I work. Or try to work.
It's just one amazement after another lately. Stars must be aligned. I don't know. The four phoebes I painted, so lovingly protected, so sadly mourned, are now incorporated into the muscle of a black rat snake who prowls our deck and porch. I put up a little shelf in a safer spot for the pair, hoping they'd nest again. The male is singing nonstop. I haven't seen the female. No eggs in the nest yet, but I'm hoping.
I was totally bummed the day the phoebes were taken, and half the next day (June 8). The phone rang just after noon, and a tentative voice asked if I were the bird person. This always means that there's a bird in trouble on the other end of the line. The caller explained that she and her husband had been tearing down a shed in their backyard and found a bird's nest. My heart leapt in my chest. Carolina wren, house sparrow, phoebe. Make it a phoebe.
I asked her what color the babies (two) were.
I dunno. Fuzzy.
Fuzzy is good.
They've got long beaks.
Long beaks are good.
What does the nest look like?
Some grass, maybe a little moss.
Moss is good.
Where are you?
We're in Wingett Run. (This is about 15 minutes away from me. Most of my calls come from far flung spots, well over an hour's drive. I'm the only songbird rehabilitator for at least three huge counties around. NOBODY calls from Wingett Run).
How did you get my number?
You're never gonna believe this. I looked up "BIRD" in the phone book, and didn't find anything, so I figured there had to be a number like 1-800-WILDLIFE (which happens to be the Ohio Wildlife Center's Columbus hotline). I dialed it and they gave me your name and number.
Wow. Good thinking. Is this really happening?
I don't want these birds to die. We didn't know what else to do so we put their nest up in a tree and it rained all night.
Urggg. Can you bring them to me?
I'll do anything at this point.

I gave the caller directions and scrambled to make a bird omelet. Egg, ground eggshell, dried fly larvae. Ummmmm. So disgusting.
The car rolled up not twenty minutes later. In a little mud and moss nest were two baby phoebes, aged ten days. Just a day younger than the four were when the snake ate them. They hadn't eaten for 18 hours and had spent a night in the rain, so I had a little backfilling to do.Here are Kandy and her daughter Sandy, holding the phoebes. I don't know who was more amazed when I showed them my half-finished painting of phoebe development, and where their foundlings fit into the series. I began painting them the next day. The series continued, unbroken. "I don't know what you think," Kandy said, "but I think God did this."

I am still reeling from the perfection of it all. And feeding the babies every half hour.They're fine, growing, feathered out. I'm up to my elbows in mealworms and crickets. Phoebe just called from the kitchen, saying the bigger one (Avis) just fledged. Which means she leapt from the plastic container and landed on the kitchen table. Time to scalp the lawn one more time, and put up the screen tent outside, where they can practice flying. Here's what they looked like on June 12, on Day 14. Their diet is obviously agreeing with them.
It has taken me this long to absorb this event and be able to tell you about it. I just couldn't wrap my mind around it. I've been doing avian rehab on and off since 1982 and I've never even come close to getting phoebes. And now, when I needed them most, they came to me. Maybe Kandy has it figured out.


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