YAY!! Our little cardinal guest was released at 7:35 a.m. CST and flew like a champ out of sight.
And for those of you who know my history with birds around here you will know just how thrilled I am.
For those of you who don't know...we have had quite a few robins build nests in goofy places, no matter how we try to discourage them and that has led to me having to watch nests being ransacked and watching lots of babies die in heartbreaking ways. And then of course there was losing every duckling last year to the drought in a terribly slow and gutwrenching matter as the marsh went from thriving to dried caked-mud field over the weeks they grew into young adults not yet able to fly and escape predation.
But the one that was hardest for me, because I could have prevented it, was a little robin on Flight School Day. (This is the day that all the birds in my yard decide to get the kids moving and my yard becomes a cacophony of terrified chicks of every stripe...blue jays, robins, cardinals, whoever is ready to go. It may also be known as Fun Fest for Feral Cats).
Well, this little fledgling was just learning about windows and conked himself on one of ours and was a bit dazed on my deck. Knowing the local feral cats find this amusing (and potentially tasty), I scooped him up and sat with him, waiting for him to recover from his daze. And while I was at it I got a very nice photo of him.
And then he got a little restless and I let him out of my hand and he flopped out and got a little tangled in the grapevine that encircles our deck. He seemed like he was getting pretty frisky and ready to try flying again so I put him on our deck rail and he jumped.
And plummeted like a stone.
I raced down the deck to pick him up and he had a seizure and died.
But I have a nice photo, so there is that.
And that is why I don't have a nice photo of this cardinal.
And I didn't let my enthusiasm or fascination with him take over. I did hold him for the first, I don't know, maybe 45 minutes, when I was pretty sure he was going to die. But then he didn't, and he graduated to the towel while I did some stuff in my house. And when he was alert enough to get off the towel, he graduated to a shoebox for safety. And a couple hours later when he could manage getting out of that (and promptly pass out from exhaustion) I put him in a larger box. And along the way he got his ability to bite back, and he'd flutter, but then he would turn into a wet noodle and rest his beak on the bottom of the box.
I mostly let him alone, checking on him every couple hours just to make sure he was still alive, kept his light off at night, secured him in a quiet room and thought of him not as an object for my delight because he was so beautiful up close but as a patient here for recovery or hospice care, whichever it would be. Now, if you have ever seen my photos, you know keeping distance is hard for me, especially where nature and animals are concerned. But that little robin left its mark on me. There would be no photo shoots and I was not going to be tempted into letting this guy out just because he had moments of sassiness and a desire to reach the trees outside my office. I knew his anxiety about his situation gave him the adrenaline bursts he needed for those protests, but once he was spent he looked like he was about to expire.
The best thing for him was to have peace and me out of the picture. And a good night's rest in safety.
And come morning he was sitting patient as a monk in his box and when I lifted the box to the deck and took off the towel on top he flew brilliantly without hesitation or the least bit of falter.
If not for that robin, and a few other teachers, that may not have happened.
(Original post on the robin, with photo is here.)