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Miracle on the Patio

Friday, March 12, 2021

8 o'clock on March 6, 2021, a beautiful  Saturday morning. I'm making breakfast when I look out and see a goldfinch huddled on the doormat. Which says "WELCOME." Well, that's interesting. Not used to having them come to the front door!  I don't even have to lift the binoculars to know this bird has Mycoplasma. Well, I'll deal with that one later. Right now, I'm trying to fit in a little breakfast, in between disinfecting feeders and catching birds and cleaning cages.

With a heavy sigh, I put my little bowl of homemade muesli and berries together, drown it in almond milk, and take it and my sweet boy Curtis Loew down to the --squeeee!--new PATIO! I finally got sick of having to mow in this Godforsaken corner, sick of the mud around the door, and especially tired of having to dig out my hillbilly French drain every time it rained hard and long. Yep, I'd be out there in each downpour, trencher in hand, digging out the little rut from the door to the lower slope of the backyard. I'd clear away the dirt and the trench would leap with water. Otherwise, that water would come straight in under the basement door. It got old. 

So the patio's purpose was manyfold, and it finally went in this January, courtesy Thomson's Landscaping in Marietta, Ohio. Yes, it's a water control system, but it's also absolutely delicious to have a little paved court where I can bask in the spring sun. Curtis has a big old foam pad to lie on. You should see him wag when I suggest we take breakfast on the patio! If I had a tail it'd be wagging, too! I can't wait to plant some nice flowers in the terraced beds--the salvias I overwintered in the basement should do nicely. Then it'll be a hummingbird observatory! Woot!!

Curtis and I were basking, taking a rare moment to relax, when straight down from the sky came a little female goldfinch. It looked just like the one who had been sitting on the front porch earlier. It was clear from the way she flew, her body straight up and down, her wingbeats tentative, her tail spread to brake, that she couldn't see much at all. Poor wee thing!  But look how Curtis watches it, without dashing after it. That, my friends, is PROGRESS with a mountain cur! I didn't have to say a word. He just knew he shouldn't go after this bird. 

A lot of cool stuff happens to me, stuck way back out here in the wilderness. But this was one of the coolest things, and I'm so glad I thought to get video of her approaching me and Curtis. I had to wonder why that little bird, who was feeling so vulnerable and bad, came to my front porch--and then made her way down to the patio where I was sitting. Could she possibly have been trying to get help? Trying to find the lady who had been filling the feeders? Who had picked up so many sick goldfinches and taken them inside? Stranger things have happened. We must never underestimate what birds know, and never assume we understand why they do what they do. 

A bunch of people on my social media feed have asked for a video of me capturing a goldfinch. Well, catching a free-flying wild bird with your bare hands, compromised or not, is NOT something you can really do one-handed while making a video. If I was ever going to be able to pull that off, it was now. I had a blinded finch in a wide-open space. I decided to give it a go. Watch the Gentle Cobra in action!


I was shocked at how emaciated and weak this poor wee bird was once I got her in my hand. She was by far the sickest of the now NINE birds I've captured and am treating. Um, make that twelve. So sick that she wouldn't eat, even after her big first dose of Tylan water. So she stayed in the intensive care bin for two days, and I force-fed her nestling formula with a syringe. I was elated when she finally began to self-feed again! Once she was eating on her own and could see, I could put her in the community hospital cage. Except that one was full. 


So I let her sleep in the ICU while I prepped another, larger cage that I put in Liam's room. Seeing her put her head under her back feathers gave a pang to my heart.

I went to the crowded foyer cage, which now had six goldfinches binging off its sides, and caught two birds to be her cagemates. Here's a male who was really sick, but he's seeing now and looks so much better! I can tell it's a male because his black cap is coming in. Females don't have a black cap.

And here's a little female who looks really bright! Oh, if you could have seen these birds when they came in just a few days earlier!

The new cage, waiting for more patients. Patio Finch went in here, with a nice window looking out onto where she was caught.

I've taken down all of my tube feeders. I'm keeping only a peanut feeder up so I can, I hope, catch the last few sick goldfinches from this flock. Once I've got them, the peanut feeder will come down. I just cannot continue to feed with this epidemic raging. I don't want my feeding station to be an infection point for innocent birds. 

And so I ask you, if you're seeing sick finches--house or gold--with swollen, closed eyes, please harden your heart and take your feeders down. Allow the birds to disperse. Don't invite them into a place that's teeming with Mycoplasma. They're better off foraging naturally, dispersed and socially distanced. Soak your feeders in a joint compound bucket with detergent and bleach (one part bleach to 10 parts water, or a good healthy glug for a full bucket). Let them soak for 15 min, and soak all parts--flip them over if they're too long to submerge completely. Rinse them and put them away for a few weeks, or--as I do now--  for the spring and summer. You might need to bust them back out for that March or April snowstorm, or that cruel May freeze, and you'll be glad you disinfected them if you do. 

Thank you.


I love what you're doing, Julie. It's so heartbreaking to watch these sweet little birds suffer. And thanks for the reminder to clean my bird feeders!

What a compelling story, Julie. Thank you for documenting it all with these beautiful videos and sharing it here with us. Thank you.

I love the miracles you share – a good hunting dog restraining himself; a sick bird seeking out the healer-lady. Fills my heart to breaking.

The World is very grateful for Birders such as you, Julie! Thanks for the amazing videos & your beautiful words & teaching us all something good & kind. You rock Ms Cobra!!

Patty O. Finch is in good hands.

I think birds are smarter and know more than science will ever be able to prove through repeatable experiments. Good souls healing together in the world.

Former wildlife/bird rehabber cousin of mine in the Florida Keys used to get birds dropping in at her home andn needing care every so often. Coincidence? I tend to think not, but we'll never know for sure, will we? Appreciate the images and videos. We'll break from feeding too. Time for a good cleanup. Thanks for the info and your time and talent. You seem tireless! Probably that good homemade food for fuel. Kim in PA

Julie I know this is hard work but its your Heart Work, so thank you for loving nature and showing us all what me might never know or appreciate without you. Whether it's another star in your crown or feather in your cap, you have earned it!

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