Dick Pinney's Guide Lines: Songbird story won't make our readers blue
By DICK PINNEY | March 12. 2017 12:58AM
Coming back from my daily walk around our neighborhood on a kind of dreary and cold April day, with just a few more steps to my home, we saw something strange on a big rock on my neighbor's lawn and went to investigate. It was a sorry little baby songbird chick and, even though it was one of those unwanted varieties, a starling, we put it in our pocket and presented it to our longtime wildlife rehabber, wife Jane.
When the Dickster was a New Hampshire conservation officer, Jane had learned well about how to take care of lost or orphaned birds and animals, and the only line she drew in the sand was a very strong, "no snakes!"
Into the house I went, with a plan in mind. "Stick out your hand and I'll give you a nice present," I said to Jane, which she did. When she opened her eyes, her face didn't show much joy, to say it mildly.
"What do you expect me to do with that ugly starling? There's plenty of them around, too many, so I don't think God would mind if his flock got diminished by one. Why didn't you just pick me out a baby bluebird or some nice bird? Oh well, I guess I've got no choice now as I'll never forgive myself if I don't try to bring this bird back to health."
First she had to present the chick to our cat, and advise tabby that if she ever was caught messing with her new baby bird, she'd get the licking of her life!
Jane lined a cardboard box with fine shavings, a tiny bowl of water, suspended a small light bulb over the box and proceeded to try to get some baby cereal mixed with warm milk into the bird. She didn't succeed that first day but the next day the dried-out chick started to perk up and allowed Jane to feed it with tiny bits of cereal on the end of a toothpick.
Soon Rocky, the name I gave the new baby bird because I found it on a big rock, began to grow and prosper, and as the bird grew and seasons started to change, Jane started to mix in some bits of earthworms and any small bugs she could capture, trying to mimic what that birds real mother would feed it.
And as the baby bird began to grow some real feathers and put on some weight, a real miracle happened: Our Rocky was indeed a bluebird!
Rocky was so bonded to Jane that, when we let the cat outdoors, the bird had the run of the house and followed Jane from room to room, often landing on her shoulder for a free ride! Their relationship was incredible as Jane could call that bird and it would come from anywhere in our house. And Rocky had no problem voluntarily going back into the bird cage.
As summer progressed, Jane decided it was only fair that she give Rocky the chance to fly outdoors. We were both very nervous about this but felt that it had to be done. Rocky took off and flew a few circles and landed on Jane's shoulder and went back into the bird cage.
Each day Rocky lengthened its flying distance and time on the wing, but then flew back into the cage voluntarily. Soon she'd walk and fly around Jane as she worked weeding her vegetable garden, and a few times she'd stray over to a neighbor's home for a visit. Usually a phone call from them would let us settle their apprehension a bit when we told them that Rocky would just come home after the visit. And Rocky always did. Sometimes she'd be away for a day and a night and we figured she'd migrated but she came back, until one day in the fall when our yard was full of migrating robins, we believe she joined up with them and that was the end of an almost miraculous and wonderful relationship that we'll forever cherish.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.