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Saving the Yellowthroat

Monday, July 17, 2006

It's been raining a lot, and until today has been exceptionally dreary. Probably just fine, because I have a ton of drawings to do for the New York breeding bird atlas, and for another book project. If the sun shines, I'm out in the gardens, can't help myself. Confined to the studio like a good drone, I do glance up at my birches every few minutes. This lovely scarlet tanager stopped by to brighten my day. He's one we know well for his lighter-than-usual orangeish plumage and his persistant song. Such a blessing!

Got my bird mojo workin', yeah. I went outside at dusk while talking on the phone to a slightly shaky Phoebe, calling from New Jersey, where she'll be spending a week at the beach with her grandma. Although it was pouring, I walked around the front yard, enjoying the feel of rain on my face. I heard a plup-plup-plup sound and assumed it was water dripping into the muck bucket that serves as my rain barrel. But the bird-protecting fairy tapped me on the shoulder, and I looked, just to make sure. There was a newly fledged juvenile common yellowthroat, no doubt the offspring of our beloved orchard pair, treading water in the bucket! Aggh! I scooped it out and saw that it was at the very edge of exhaustion. Oh, poor little thing! I set it in a flowerpot and stepped back to evaluate it. When it didn't immediately try to fly, I decided to warm it up and give it something to eat.
I fetched a nice fat newly-molted mealworm and my forceps. Got that obstinate little bill open and placed the larva inside. The yellowthroat held it, considered for a few seconds, then greedily gulped it down. I held it awhile longer in my warm hand, and watched the life seep back into its eyes. Then the moment came, and I carried it to our thickest arbor vitae and opened my hand. It stood on my palm, ruffled its feathers, and hopped gladly into the shrub, scolding all the while. I liked hearing it cuss me out. Yellowthroats are volatile little birds. And it was lovely to know it would go to roost with a full crop.
There is now a little wooden raft in the muck bucket. I was heading for the garage to get the raft when I found the copperhead in an earlier post. Ah, hello!
I'm surfacing from a ten-day funk, brought on by Bill's extended absence in Africa. I don't begrudge him the trip one bit; I'm delighted he gets to commune with elephants, but man, the timing is rough. He's been gone 20 of the last 40 days, and has been so swamped with work when he is here that we're like a couple of ships passing. No need to wonder how single moms cope--I know too well. Being on duty around the clock day after day is hard on the spirit. I'm guilty of working too much, and totally neglecting my own needs. Those of you who wonder aloud how I manage to do so many things take warning: I'm a messed-up cookie.
But I am so looking forward to welcoming Bill home. He's my driving wheel. I have lived life without him too much lately, and I know to my bones that I need him every minute of every day. Does this describe a needy, weak woman? No. I am the Copperhead Hunter. I could forge my way alone in the world, but I don't want to. I know exactly what, and who, I need. It's a blessing to know what you need, and who you love most of all. Such are the rewards of getting older.


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