Sunday, July 7, 2013
I was leading a birding group with Bill for Hog Island Audubon Camp at this glorious marsh at the Damariscotta River Association property near Bremen, Maine when a Facebook message rang into my phone. I hadn't had reception in quite some time, so I glanced at it, feeling a bit foolish as I did so, surrounded as I was by all this useful beauty.
My friend Sherri was asking if I could take three orphaned baby bluebirds. Not right now, I can't. She included the phone number of the couple who had them. A pair had nested in their plastic newspaper delivery box beneath their mailbox, and the female had disappeared, probably hit by a car on their busy road, and then the male disappeared too, and the babies were left cold and unresponsive. I thought for a moment and called Fran, suggesting emergency foods, ways to find rehabilitators, and most importantly, that she call my friend Jeff who has bluebird boxes near mine, and could check both our trails for same-age young in our boxes.
That way, he might be able to put the babies in with other broods. It's called cross-fostering. The adults would adopt them and they'd grow up normally as bluebirds and nobody would have to drop everything and feed them every half-hour.
Fran called Jeff and Jeff checked his and my boxes and they all had eggs or very young babies. He texted me to that effect. And these orphans were about 12 days old, by the description of their feathering. Rats, rats, rats.
We kept birding and Bill tried to call in a Virginia rail who came very close and called and called but wouldn't let us see him. Still, it was a thrill for the teen campers to be in the presence of an elusive rail, a very mad one.
Everyone was ready to take its picture if it appeared. But it didn't.
So as I walked the wet meadows with the teen birders I thought about what I could do, all the way from Maine, to help these babies and the kind people who were so concerned for them.
I called Fran back and told her to keep them warm and feed them kitten chow soaked and mashed with warm water, and some mealworms, and I would take them when I got back. I could tell she was up for it, and I could tell she would do a good job.
And she did.
We spoke a couple of times upon my return from Maine. After a quick trip to Pittsburgh with the family, I could take the birds. I have two weeks at home, which feels like an absolute luxury. Two weeks! I get to stay home! Might as well raise some bluebirds. Because I don't have all that much to do around here...Controlled chaos is my resting state.
This morning, Fran and Mil brought their little charges, which they'd named Winken, Blinken and Nod.
Names that I planned to change, once I got to know them, just because.
Fran and Mil had given over their downstairs bathroom to the birds, papering the floor with newspaper, and putting up perches for them to fly to. You do what you must, and they didn't want to cage them.
It was immediately clear that they had formed strong bonds with the baby bluebirds, and had given them good food and lots of love and attention. The birds looked great, strong, healthy, calling and flying well. Not caging them: Good call.
So this morning, Sunday, I got up early and set up the Bat Tent, which doubles as a mighty fine Bird Tent. Because it is hopelessly flimsy and we have daily thunderstorms this summer, I saved myself a lot of worry about its being crumpled up and blown across the county and set it up in the garage, as I do for my overwintering bats. I covered the floor with newspapers and set up some plant stands and lattices for perches, even put a bluebird box in there with soft nesting material inside, in case they wanted to return to the womb. I put a dish of shallow water on a plant stand for drinking and bathing. And took over as mother to three baby bluebirds. More anon...