Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wildlife Rescue

Yesterday I heard the telltale thud against the back sliding glass window. Sure enough, there lay a pitiful bright red cardinal on the porch floor. Head turned backwards and not moving. Didn't look good. I hurried to get a pair of gloves and a towel. If the little guy didn't die instantly, I may be able to keep him warm until he revived himself. I've been through this before. I've learned if the bird has any chance, and is only stunned from the impact, thirty minutes to one hour will tell the tale.

The temperature outside was a very cold 20 degrees and the wind was chilling. I decided I'd place the little guy in a cardboard shoe box I found in the closet. A new pair of shoes that didn't fit anyway. I'd place him in the box, wrapped gently in the towel, in the back room of the house and close the door. Buddy, the cat, was asleep in the bedroom at the other end of the house and hadn't moved an inch so I wouldn't have to worry about him. I'd check on the cardinal every ten minutes. Before placing the cardinal in the box, I held his fragile body in my gloved hands. I could feel the life still there. His tiny heart beating and I could see he was still breathing. I was encouraged with this one.

On Saturday, a Red Bellied Woodpecker met the same fate, but he didn't fare as well. I got to him in the same amount of time but no heartbeat. Nothing. He was still. I held him in my gloved hand, lightly wrapped in a towel, for quite some time but it was clear, he'd passed on quickly. I quietly took him down by the creek, laid him underneath the giant white pines and in a bed of pine needles. Covered him over and let nature have him back. As I stood there admiring the bright stripe of red on his head, I wondered how many other people would bother? Probably not many, but we have a rule around here, we respect wildlife in death and life. If we can help we do. He was a gorgeous bird and his final fate saddened me. I felt responsible because he slammed into the glass door, but realistically, I know it wasn't my fault. My husband said he'd noticed two RBW flying around like they were arguing over territory a little while before the crash.One of them won the battle, one of them didn't.

So, I was hoping the little cardinal's fate would be better. I checked the box about every ten minutes. By about the third check the cardinal had set himself in the towel like he was nesting,which I found as a good sign. I closed up the top of the box and waited for the next check. 

When I checked the fourth time, he moved his head when I opened up the box. I didn't want to disturb him too much, we were on the hour countdown. As noted, if he wasn't up and flying within the next 15-20 minutes, he probably wasn't going to be. 

The last time I checked on him he seemed alert. I then decided to move the box outside, open it up and if he was going to survive, he'd soon take off. He sat on the towel, inside the box for a while longer. I checked on him a couple of times. I figure he could hear the other birds, see them flitting by above him. Finally, I couldn't stand it any longer and with my gloved hand I gently went under him. Surprise, he jumped on my hand. Now I realize this is a wild bird, he has no clue I'm trying to help him. I remained calm, lifted my hand up slowly to the railing of the deck thinking he might choose to perch on something solid. Within a few seconds, he flapped his wings and flew off to the trees. My wildlife rescue a success this time around.

Both of the cardinal photos courtesy of JJS (aka my photographer husband)


Laura Crum said...

Leslie--What a great story. I have had this experience many times, not with cardinals (we don't have them here in California), but with many other birds, including hummingbirds. If time allows, I hold them in my hand to warm them and I have often had the experience of holding my hand up and open (when I think they are ready) and having them step up and perch on my finger for awhile before they fly off. Its magical.

Leslie said...

Laura,it's an enlightening moment.And yes, magical.I honestly hadn't expected the little guy to jump on my hand, but maybe because I was wearing dark brown gloves he thought it was a tree branch. I remember standing very still and even holding my breath as he decided his next move.