...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


a gift from the orioles...

One night about three weeks ago,
Boo saw a little fluff of something in the grass. 
Turns out it was a sweet young Baltimore Oriole!

All the cute little thing wanted to do was close its eyes and go to sleep...
It didn't attempt to hop or flap away when we approached it. 

We were worried that it had fallen out of its nest 
or maybe its parents had died or abandoned it.

Upon closer inspection, it didn't seem injured... 
but because it also wasn't attempting to go anywhere, we weren't sure.

What do we do?  What do we do? 

It was late, getting on 8:00, and we were supposed to have severe thunderstorms...
We couldn't imagine leaving the sweet little vulnerable creature out there all alone all night.
How could it possibly survive?  

We decided to take it to the Cornell Wildlife Health Center to be on the safe side.
They told us that if the bird wasn't clearly injured, they wouldn't take it,
and that if it was a fledgling, the best thing to do was to put it right back where we found it.

The little bird kept crawling deeper into my partner's lap 
and clinging with its feet to her finger...  
It clearly just wanted to nuzzle in and sleep.

Even though it felt so wrong to leave what seemed like a totally helpless bird
down on the ground with thunder and lightning quickly rolling in,
she pried it off of her finger and put it down.
Tough love ain't for sissies.
Mother nature doles out a lot of it, though, 
and we reluctantly rise to the occasion.

It's never easy for us.
I mean, come on, we knit sweaters for chickens!  

Tough love?  
Do we have to?  
Are you sure? 
Oh, fine.     
Alright, alright already.


We needed to feel better about leaving the little bird alone out there in the elements 
so we did a little more research.
It turns out the Cornell folks were totally right, at least according to a basic google search.

We determined that it was a fledgling, not a nestling 
because of the way it gripped our fingers like a perch.  
Most likely it fledged a little too early
and its parents were there watching over it to make sure it would be okay.  

So, if you ever find what seems like a lone baby bird in the ground, 
don't jump to take action.
Let nature take its course.  

Step back from the scene and watch from a distance:
-  when you are more distant, do the parents come in to assist?
Most fledglings get up the strength to do what they need to do sooner or later.

If you find a younger bird (more fluff than feathers, and no gripping of the feet)
 it's best to put it back in its nest, if you can find it and do that safely... 
or simply place it up in the nearest tree.

If it's injured and you have a wildlife rehab near you, 
that's when you can intervene.

Oh, and one more thing about this:
I was actually told that it's illegal to try to rehabilitate a wild animal yourself,
(which just adds to the otherwise long list of ridiculous laws in my opinion)
but be forewarned that besides being "illegal," 
raising a nestling is also SO MUCH WORK.  
They have to eat like every 20 minutes. It's a very demanding task.
Sounds exhausting. 
That's one situation when I might be quite glad to let nature take it's course!
Sleep interruption and I don't mix well at all.  Just ask Boo.


As far as we know, the story has a happy ending!
We put the fledgling oriole near where we had found it, 
and tried to shelter it a bit because of the pending thunderstorms. 

The next morning, we saw that it was still alive,
and it had made it a little bit further from where we placed it.   

And later that day when we went back to check, 
there was no sign of it at all, 
and also no sign of  "foul play."  

We initially felt badly about our misinformed but well-intentioned efforts to intervene, 
but were relieved to have what seemed like good closure.  


But, the story for us got even better!  
A week later, I stumbled upon this in our driveway:

It's not unusual to see chunky things in our driveway 
since it's our dog Clara's favorite location to relieve herself.
From a distance, I thought this was just another pile of dogdoo.

I was utterly delighted to see this oriole nest... 
so exquisitely beautiful and intricate!

My magical thinking immediately said, 
"Oh wow!  It's a gift from the orioles!
... for caring for the fledgling...!!!"  

While it's probably just pure chance that an oriole nest dropped onto our driveway a week later,
I must confess that I enjoy magical thinking at times.
It's a boon to the spirit, so why not?

The nest seems to have fallen out of this cottonwood tree next to the driveway.
I spotted adult orioles in there earlier in the spring.

The cottonwood drops (surprise) cottony catkins that the orioles wove into the nest.
Elms are the preferred nesting trees of orioles, but with elms on the decline from disease,
the cottonwood is another favorite nesting tree.

You can see the dried catkins woven in:

I don't have a super fancy camera 
and I'm not a skilled enough photographer to adequately convey it's beauty,
but here are some shots to give you an idea:  

Thank you, orioles!

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