Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Signs and Wonders

First thing today, a bird fell out of the sky at my feet. I was walking north on Dearborn Street and a pretty feathered olive green thing dropped to the sidewalk in front of me, its white legs askew. It was not as dramatic as having a cougar cross my path, as one crossed my assistant’s a few weeks back, but birds don’t fall before me every day, either.

I stared at it a moment—baffled at what to do—and then picked it up between an old receipt and a train schedule. I had no idea if it was dead or alive. A hardened-looking blonde woman stopped and suggested I put it in one of the planters on the street, so “it could be in nature.” I laid it down under a fat, sprouting hosta leaf in one of the city’s planter beds, and rode the elevator up to my office.

At my desk, I googled ‘injured bird Chicago’ and right away a phone number for Chicago Bird Collision Monitors popped up. I was only mildly surprised since Arthur Pearson from my writing group wrote a youth novel about bird rescuers at the John Hancock building. The CBCM has an emergency hotline, and a network of volunteers who retrieve birds who get injured flying through the Loop; one rescuer works in City Hall, just down the block. The operator said to place the bird in a box or a paper bag. So I found a stray Levenger bag (thrown under my desk with about 7 pairs of shoes).

I went back downstairs with my deputy and we scooped up the bird (a warbler? A finch?) and tucked her into the bag. It was hard to tell if she was still alive—her tiny black bead of an eye was open, rimmed with delicate white feathers. We toted her upstairs, stapled the bag shut and waited for the volunteer.

An hour passed and nobody rang. So I called the hotline again, and the operator located a second rescuer. She couldn’t leave her office, but I offered to bring her the bird. I picked up my little olive green bag with the little olive green bird inside, and set out for the corner of Monroe and Franklin, about a half-mile away. A few blocks later I realized I’d been swinging the bag by its string handles. Yikes! I apologized to the bird and clutched the sack at its top.

About 10 minutes later I reached the ATT lobby and called “Barb” from my cell phone. She said “I’ll be wearing a grey shirt” as if I was making a surreptitious drug delivery. She came down and quickly retrieved the bag without opening it. She’s learned to keep the bags closed; she’s had birds escape, and it’s problematic if they fly around indoors. She shook her head knowingly, then disappeared behind the security turnstile protecting the elevator banks.

That was that. I don’t know if the bird is dead or alive, and I would rather not know. If it’s alive they will give it medical attention. If it’s dead, they’ll note where it was found, and put it to rest. Either way, I’d like them to identify it for me—I couldn’t determine anything from the web, though it looks somewhat like an orange-crowned warbler without the crown. Sadly, deposed.


LitPark said...

I found two dead fledglings today. Is that the word? The little guys who are still gray and don't have feathers yet?

I have a long history of trying to save birds and possums and sticking stray dogs in my car. Last weekend, my neighbors brought a stray cat to my office and we made signs and neighbor kids rode the signs up and down the neighborhood.

I love your story because it always feels like that for me - some instinct steps in with all of this hope and belief in your abilities to rescue the world. And all the while, there is something so very clumsy and unnerving about it, too.

Glad to read your stories again. xo

Gail said...

Hi sweetie:

There must be a prayer for dead fledglings. Sigh.

Bravo to you on that stray cat. Once upon a time our cat fell out the window, and if it weren't for the kindness of strangers who fed and sheltered her for a few days, we never would have found her, had her leg set, and lived happily ever after.

Our cat's name was PIA!!!

My brother, too, found a stray mom-cat who gave birth in his garage this weekend. (He's named them X, Y, and Z.) I love the way the animal world impinges on our own.

spacedlaw said...

Finally a little bit of time to comment!
Who would have thought there would be someone to call in such case? I am sure that nothing of the sort can be found here (at least not THAT organised).
Most birds that fall in the garden end up in one of my cats' mouth, unfortunately (although they are more given to lizards, which cannot fly away the poor creatures...). Maybe I should stop adopting strays, even if, in fact, they are the ones who are doing most of the adopting.