I believe in blogging, but I believe in blogging on a blog. I believe in telling the story, and then the rest of the story. I see a lot of people trying to blog on Facebook, posting serial status updates with lots of photos and long paragraphs of text. I wish they'd blog instead. Facebook is a place where people go to let their ADD run wild. They're there for tiny sips, not a whole flagon or a neck-deep bath, for Pete's sake. Facebook killed a lot of blogs, but it's also keeping mine alive, thank you very much, and the dance I do to try to get people here for the whole story is a delicate one.
Probably 95% of what goes on in people's reactions to things they see on Facebook is no deeper than, "Oh that's nice. Isn't that cute. I like that." I get that and respect it. I don't expect a lot more than that, and I try to accommodate people in their search for quick hits of beauty and yes, cuteness, because we all need quick hits of nice to get us through our day. I don't discuss politics. I don't rant. I don't post anything unless I think it's worth sharing and will lift people up, help them reflect on something I find meaningful, or give them a smile. I believe in positivity, in noticing small things that others may overlook, and in sharing that. If that sounds a bit Pollyanna, that's fine with me. It's the only way I feel comfortable sharing so much of what goes on in my head.
That said, I save my best stories, photos, thoughts and essays for the blog. I put teasers up on Facebook, just fun stuff that you can take in a quick bite. I try to bring the eyeballs over here, with varying success. I'm lucky to get 20 "likes" on a blogpost link. Sad to say, 40 likes is huge. I can hope that some percentage of those 40 likers actually clicked through to the blog.
Sometimes things blow up. That's when it gets weird.
On March 25, I went out to fill my dome feeder and there was a male American goldfinch sitting in it, eyes closed, all puffed up. I looked at him there, knowing he likely had the bacterial conjunctivitis/respiratory illness called House Finch Disease and not really wanting to do what I thought I should do. Ugh. I hate having to play God with small lives. I reached a tentative finger toward him and he climbed onto it. At that point, my stupid heart kicked my smart head in. I hate it when that happens.
I closed my fingers around him so he couldn't get loose, and thought, "I should just wring his neck right now and be done with him. This is a bad, bad disease." I walked in circles, thinking about what I should do. "I need to wring this bird's neck." I started to, hesitated, remembering how he'd climbed onto my finger, this wild bird who couldn't see. Why would he do that, unless he was asking for help?
And instead of wringing his neck, headed for the medicine cabinet. I had been that close.
My primitive thought process went like this. "What have I got in here? Hmm, here's some doxycycline. That's like tetracycline. And doxycycline and tetracycline are useful for Lyme disease. Maybe it'll work on Mycoplasma."
Completely off the cuff, uninformed, unpolluted by any real information. Just a guess. Thinking that doing something here to try to help is better than doing nothing. Or better than killing him. Maybe. I'll get back to that.
I ground up a doxycycline tablet and put a pinch of it in some just-mixed parrot handfeeding formula, took the goldfinch out of the paper bag I'd stored him in, waited until he tried to bite my finger, jammed a syringe in his bill, and force-fed the little guy some spiked food. And then, when his eyes had begun to improve that same afternoon, I was so elated that, like the attention-seeking compulsive sharer that I am, I posted about it. Note that I omitted the part about contemplating his murder.
Which is kind of the point; nearly every critter out there comes colonized by one or more (usually more) mycoplasma species many of which are pathogenic for somebody somewhere and cannot be eradicated. Despite the fact they have no cell walls like other bacteria, they are remarkably tough and can evolve into new drug resistance right before your eyes.
Now, the saving grace for you and Booger is that M. gallisepticum is usually shed by stressed and immunosuppressed, therefore diseased, birds. What I was thinking as you described treating Booger was that, while your antibiotics wouldn't do that much for the Mycoplasma infection, they probably would help a lot with the secondary pathogens which infect a lot of diseased birds and actually cause many of the clinical signs. That, a good feeding, and some warmth would tend to turn Booger around fast if he wasn't too far gone. So, if Booger can get his immune system tuned up at your feeders he will likely stop shedding the bug, at least for the time being.
Part of the story here is that you could have flamethrowers mounted at your feeders to barbecue the Darwinian losers from their perches, but you still wouldn't eradicate the bug from the population. So, the best you can do is to try to keep them as healthy as you can through the most stressful months. The bug will still be there, though.
Well, I was trying to figure out what the least worst thing might be that I could do. I couldn't tell 1080 people who already "like" Booger that he was going to be fine. I couldn't very well tell them, at least on my shiny happy Facebook page, that I should have wrung his neck right at the start. People were telling me I was "amazing" and calling me "finch whisperer" and "miracle worker" and any number of other very nice names when I am none of those things. I'm blundering around here, doing too little and making way too much noise about it. So I'm telling those with enough interest to click through (that would be you!) exactly that. The "Oh how sweet!" crowd can go on their way in happy ignorance.
I decided to medicate Boog until he was asymptomatic, release him and hope he wouldn't have a relapse. And to shut my mouth next time until I knew more about what I was trying to do.
This whole time I've been working with Booger, there's been a female house finch at the feeders, almost completely blind with MG. She takes auditory cues from the other birds, and when they all fly off giving alarm calls, she flies straight up in a weird, jerky, tentative way, then descends and crash-lands high in the soft foliage of an arbor vitae, fluttering to a usually upside-down, clinging halt. It's a pretty amazing coping strategy--a blind bird still flying, and figuring out where to crash-land where she can get out of the way of danger, but won't hurt herself. High enough to be out of reach. Today I tried sneaking up on her when all the other birds had flown, and she did the same routine. She can see juuust enough to see me coming. Next time I'm going to try the koi net.
She's our Typhoid Mary, and you can bet that if I do manage to catch her, I'm not going to give her a cute name and post about her. I won't even try to treat her. Been there, done that, and I'm here now, mea culping all over the place.
When I'm done I'll bleach the feeders. No point doing that until she's out of the picture.
The scuzzy-looking goldfinch has out"liked" anything I have ever posted. Go figure. I'd say it went viral, but it's actually bacterial. Heh.