WALKS IN THE WOODS PART 6
One of the most poignant occurrences we experienced in the course of feeding the woodland birds and animals was the time that I (Mal) found a young purple finch lying near the base of the pine tree that used to grow near the front of our side yard (sadly, the tree did not survive the ice storm of 1991, and had to be removed.) At first I thought it was dead; we frequently discovered smaller birds that had been attacked by vicious starlings and grackles lying dead about the yard. We recycled the poor little creatures by placing them on a small plastic tray which we placed near the woods for our friendly raccoon to discover - more about this unique creature in future.
The small bird with the vermilion head and throat lay unmoving until I touched it - at which point it began to flap ineffectually and hop about. Inspecting the bird, I noticed that there was blood on one of its wings, and some of the feathers appeared to be missing. I gently picked it up and carried it into the house. Taking it into the bathroom, I gingerly cleansed the bleeding area and applied a moistened styptic pencil to the wound. The bird struggled quite vigorously in the beginning, but gradually subsided and shortly allowed itself to be handled with no protest.
After blotting the wing with a tissue, I carried the bird to the couch and sat down to watch tv. I must have been up quite late the night before, because I lay down and fell asleep with the bird nestled comfortably in my outstretched hand.
I slept for about an hour and, upon awakening, discovered that the finch had shuffled up onto my wrist, leaving a small present in my hand. I waited until the little creature stirred and woke, at which point I coaxed it onto my other hand, pressing gently against its lower breast with the flat of my hand as I was accustomed to do with our parakeet, and, though wild, it readily shifted to the other hand.
After cleaning my hand, I brought the young bird into the bedroom where we kept our parakeet and set it down on the bed, explaining to Frosty what had happened (no, he probably didn’t understand a word of it.) The two birds inspected each other, and Frosty became excited enough to begin peeping, the finch uttering a quiet cheep in return. Frosty flew around the room a couple of times, which caused the finch to flop frenziedly around on the comforter. It occurred to me that I really ought to contain it somehow before it hurt itself, so I got a shoe box from the closet and placed the creature within the box until I could transfer it to an old aquarium. Lining the bottom of the aquarium with an old, soft rag and placing seeds and a small bowl of water within, I transferred the finch to its new temporary home. It was reluctant to leave my hand at first, but the attractions of food and drink grew too much for it, and it hopped over to the dish and began to eat.
When Bonnie arrived home from work, and after cooing over and spending some time holding the finch, we talked over our options. As much as we would have loved to have kept the bird, we decided that the best course of action was to take it to a local vet, inasmuch as we believed the bird’s wing to be broken. We thought that it wouldn’t be detrimental to the bird if we waited until the weekend, as long as the finch was healthy, which it appeared to be. We called it Baby, and spent the next three days caring for the ecstatic little creature that enjoyed spending time, cuddled in the palms of our hands, watching tv along with us.
On the Friday, we called a couple of nearby vets, explained the situation, and asked if they would care for the bird. One said yes, and we placed Baby in the shoe box and drove to the vet’s. All during the drive, the little bird stayed nested in my hand, even when my wrist began to ache from the unnatural position, and by the time we reached the vet’s I was bawling like a baby myself, bitterly regretting the decision. It was, of course, the right thing to do, and the vet had promised to turn the young bird over to a rehabilitator, but it was a very difficult action, relinquishing that lovable little finch. Even the nurse remarked how docile and friendly Baby was. We bade it goodbye, paid the bill, and went home again. We received a call from the vet a few days later telling us that Baby’s wing had been fine, that it had had some flight feathers pulled out, and that when they grew back in, Baby would be able to fly normally. We were informed that Baby had been taken to a rehabilitator, and we hoped that it was so, but we always entertained a nagging doubt ...
To this day, we miss our little finch, and if we had known that its wing wasn’t broken, we would have released it ourselves when the time was right. We regret not having had the opportunity to see it fly off, once more a free bird.