Tuesday, June 27, 2006

this afternoon II

yesterday i saved an inch of life. that is, i found a baby hummingbird in our driveway, obviously in distress. it had fallen out of a nest in our bougainvillea. (remember the hummingbird on the wire? apparently, it has kids.) it just happened to catch my eye as i passed by, on the way back from dumping some trash. i peered closer: "what's that?" as i looked at it, it rolled over onto its side and its eyes fluttered closed. it was going belly-up right in front of me! i had no clue what to do, but i moved it to a safer spot. (our driveway is just the concrete ramp up into the garage, very close to the street.) then i fed it sugar water with an eyedropper, which it eagerly accepted. i left it by itself, then came back and checked on/fed it a few times. it seemed to be recovering. now what?

i found a website for something called the hummingbird society and also project wildlife, which were useful. from the descriptions/pictures of the babies in different states of development, i decided this one was a "pre-fledgling," just about ready to fly. but, evidently, not quite.

learning what to do was great, but i was at a loss b/c what one is supposed to do in these situations is put the baby back in the nest. which is high up in the bougainvillea, a tiny thing, the size of a cue ball, maybe. we do not have a ladder. and i worried a little that the baby might just fall out again. the website said the mother will usually still feed a baby that's fallen out of the nest. which might have been ok if the ground wasn't our driveway. not a safe place. so i looked at some more websites and finally found some phone numbers. i called a hotline number, and a woman answered and explained that she didn't rescue hummingbirds anymore, although the organization hadn't taken her name off the website, but she would tell me what to do anyway. to my relief, i learned i didn't need to put the baby back into the nest. i could make a nest of a small container and secure it somewhere near the original nest. the mother would find it. they aren't the type of wild animal that gets put off its young when humans handle them. although, i didn't touch it but instead nudged it onto a piece of cardboard, like a birdie stretcher, to move it; it was so little and fragile, i was afraid i might accidentally squeeze it too hard. it was maybe an inch long. maybe two. it had all its feathers but just a stubby little tail. once stabilized, it didn't make a sound. it became quite alert after about an hour. i had read that they keep quiet in the nest so as not to attract predators. i took it to mean the little critter was acting pretty normally. i felt slightly encouraged.

i secured the prefab nest in the bougainvillea with hemp twine. this was somewhat awkward (hanging out the window), despite extra care taken, and the peeper was pretty freaked out by this bumpy ride, but what could i do? i was afraid it would go into shock from me trying to help it. anyway, i got the box tied down, and the tiny beast started cheeping. maybe 10 minutes later the mom showed up and in short order fed it. i was all, GOOOOOOALLLL! i felt soooo good. i saved a life. how cool is that?

i still worried about it. we peered up at the real nest, and there is a tiny beak poking out of it. the original nestling's fallen (pushed?) brethren was all alone, but the mother came back several times, and the baby went to sleep as soon as it got dark. i fretted it would be lonely. i am such a sap. it's gotta be childhood disney-movie damage or something.

anyway, this morning i anxiously approached the window. was the tiny beastie there? 00soul said he'd seen the little beak poking out of the fake nest earlier. i looked but saw nothing in the basket. after a minute, however, i did see the baby perched nearby in the bougainvillea. i was like, "hey! get back in the nest!" but these kids today, they have minds of their own. it just clung to a branch (which is more like a twig, it being bougainvillea), occasionally flapping its wings furiously but never letting go of that branch. it wasn't doing a terribly graceful job of holding on -- at one point i looked out, and it was hanging upside-down on the branch, cheeping and quivering, none too happy. i was afraid for it but let it be. just before i left for work, i looked out again, and it was upright, craning its neck to be fed. (the mom continues to come around regularly.) ok, then. gravity sorted out, just in one morning.

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