Some people think all babies are cute, regardless of the species. Really? Ever seen a baby slug? Cockroach? Chigger?
My wife and I were out for a stroll a few weeks ago, following a day of rain and wind. We paused along the sidewalk to behold a small bird that looked like it had been born four seconds earlier. We weren’t even sure it was a bird – it looked so alien. Naked and featherless, the little thing looked like a tiny version of Gondor, the creepy little troll from Lord of the Rings.
Our fine, unfeathered friend looked every bit like the reptilian creatures from which birds are supposedly descended. And beyond that, he appeared to have something else in common with dinosaurs: he looked like a goner.
Motionless and gasping for air, my wife picked him up from the wet pavement. (I realize that the preceding sentence might be confusing. It could leave you thinking that my wife was the one who was motionless and gasping for air. But it was the bird. Sorry for the mix-up).
“He shouldn’t have to end his short life feeling cold and alone,” she said, slipping the bedraggled creature under her blouse and against her skin. I privately gave the little peeper about as much chance of surviving as a meatball in a dog pound. But by the time we arrived at our house, the little bird was still hanging in there. My wife fashioned a small Kleenex nest and put the tiny tyke into it in an open dresser drawer in our bedroom. Not only did the little guy keep ticking, but also his tiny mouth was open wide, seemingly saying, “Feed me! Worms would be preferred!”
After checking around – including the occasionally reliable Internet – we learned that it is possible to revive and nurture a baby bird. I had always assumed that in the absence of its mother, a newborn bird had no shot. Not so.
My wife became a woman on a mission – so utterly focused that she spent the next few days in only two places. When she wasn’t at the bird’s temporary nest shoveling worm fragments into the birdie’s maw, she was out in her garden digging for more.
Even in the middle of the night, Mrs. Cashman would arise, snatch a flashlight – and go grub grabbing for an early a.m. feeding. Perhaps it never occurred to my wife that worms were once someone’s babies, too. I guess it’s hard to feel much love for a non-arthropod, invertebrate.
We gave the little chap the rather obvious name of “Lucky” – and day-by-day he got healthier and healthier. We brought the bird to a wonderful placed called Sarvey Wildlife Care Center (Sarveywildlife.org) in Arlington. We had guessed that our little bird might be anything from a robin to a pelican, but it turned out to be a dark-eyed junco. Who knew?
When an animal is fully rehabilitated, Sarvey brings it back to the same location it was first found. “Lucky” was released a few days ago and I swear I saw him sitting on our roof this morning. At least I’d like to think so. One thing’s for sure: He looks a lot better clothed in feathers.
Pat Cashman can be reached at email@example.com and at his podcast at peculiarpodcast.com. Pat’s new weekly local comedy sketch show, “the 206,” airs following SNL on KING 5.