Monday, March 26, 2007

A Happy ending for a Phoebe

Though Friday morning began like any March birding excursion at Pheasant Branch Conservancy, I didn’t know my time along sunlit trails would be so short. After crossing the first stream, I came around the bend and heard an Eastern Phoebe calling far more rapidly then they normally do. I searched the branches in the direction of the emphatic chips, but it wasn’t until I saw it flopping and struggling on the ground that I knew it was in serious trouble.

I walked over and it quickly scurried under a pile of leaves to hide itself. I already knew it had to be injured and feared the worst. I reached in, cupped my hand around it and pulled out a feisty and biting bird (a good sign). There was blood on the phoebe’s left wing (carpal area) and it looked like a little bit of bone was exposed. There was a little blood on the phoebe’s bill, but while it was biting me I made a quick inspection and determined it must have been dabbing at its wound with its bill.

I held the phoebe in my hand and walked back to my car. At my car, I realized I didn’t have any kind of container to put it in, so I drove to work one-handed (not recommended, but easy with an automatic). The phoebe eventually settled down and endured the short trip to Eagle Optics. Once there, I carefully placed the phoebe into a box with a t-shirt for comfort.

Whenever this sort of thing happens, I never seem to remember where to call and posted to the Wisconsin Birding Network - I wasn’t sure if I would be able to drive the bird to a rehabber. The bird needed attention. After an hour I decided to drive the bird to the Emergency Clinic for Animals on the southeast side of Madison.

I dropped the phoebe off and went back to work. It’s nice that several people emailed wanting to know how the phoebe was doing, so I called in a few times on Friday to check on its progress. The receptionist said it was eating mealworms and looking pretty perky, so I was beginning to feel confident that the bird would pull through.

Not wanting bad news, I put off calling over the weekend. I finally decided to give the clinic a call this afternoon and it was all good. The Eastern Phoebe had been discharged to a local rehabber for wing training. Turned out its left wing wasn’t broken but just badly scraped. I wonder how it happened? I don’t think it was a window collision, but more likely an injury from hitting a power line at full speed. I suppose it may have been due to a predator, but you would think a wounded and flightless phoebe would be such an easy take.

Souls of Nature

I am eyes fixed upon stars
And know how unattainable they are
I am footsteps in wet leaves
And realize I'm already a part of the heavens
I'm the object that small, dark eyes look upon
I'm that which they fly from
But I'm the hand that reaches out
And would try to save them should they fall
Smiling at the corners from a spring song
I am their unknown hope cheering them on
I am ears filtering out the noise
Listen to dialogue unchanged over a millennium
I am the eyes that gaze upon this landscape
Trying to imagine what has passed
I am a heart the pounds to my explorers gait
And lungs that fill with brisk morning air
I am a body slowly aging
A soul of nature narrating my time
A mind that knows no matter how it ends
It will have been all too brief
Sharing nature's glory with my friends

From the movie 'Seabiscuit':

Charles Howard: Will he get better?
Tom Smith: Already is... a little.
Charles Howard: Will he race?
Tom Smith: No. Not that one.
Charles Howard: So why are you fixing him?
Tom Smith: 'Cause l can.
Tom Smith: Every horse is good for somethin'. He could be a cart horse or a lead pony. And he's still nice to look at.You know, you don't throw a whole life away...just 'cause he's banged up a little.

Eastern Phoebe image © 2007 Mike McDowell

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