Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Scrub Jay in the Hand...

One morning a local fireman, responding to a call, called me a magnet for trouble. Long story I won’t go into here, but after feeling a bit put out at first, I’ve decided it’s a compliment. Critters (more rarely, people) in trouble do tend to show up on my doorstep perhaps more often than should be expected.

A couple weeks ago, when I went out to feed the chickens, I noticed this scrub jay sitting near the feed tray, somewhat distressed. Seemed to have something stuck in his beak. Okay, says I, if he doesn’t fly away, must be he needs help. Sure enough, he was completely passive, so I put him in a cage and started making phone calls.

The only rehabber I knew was far out on the other side of Denver, so I was delighted, after a single call, to be referred to a new one much closer. Off we went, on a slightly snowy morning, to meet her at Big O Tires. She took one look at the jay’s somewhat moribund state, and started fishing in her purse for something to substitute for proper equipment. Found the top piece of a classic Bic pen, and used that to see what was in the little guy’s mouth and sweep it out. In shock, he laid on his back in her hand while she retrieved one caterpillar more than an inch long (dead), some dirt clods, a chunk of corn, a milo seed, and assorted other gunk. I left, she rinsed his mouth a bit, and took him on home to recuperate. Neither of us was very optimistic.

By the time she got home, she told me later, he was jumping around in the box. She put him in a bigger cage, but he threw himself around so persuasively that she was concerned he’d hurt himself. By then, he’d had a little to eat and drink and seemed pretty well recovered, so she let him go in the garage, where he perched for a while. Finally he flew out the open door and sat in the top of a big pine tree for 45 minutes, preening and resting. Then, whoosh, off he went, flying into the storm, back down the hill—back toward home, she said.

We were both pretty excited I think, as not all rescue adventures end so happily. But for all those out there doing this work, so rarely rewarding and generally without compensation, please know how nice it is to find someone to turn to, someone who will help! A hearty thank-you from the rest of us, who lack the nerve and training and competence to even attempt such delicate work!

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