“Glow, there’s an injured bird in the yard. I need your help so Sprocket doesn’t eat it”
Map Guy produced a big black shoe box and told me the bird was inside. I peeked in. It was so small and fragile. It had long scrawny legs and fluffy grey wings that stood out at awkward angles.
But it wasn't injured, it was just a baby. Something inside me stirred. It was only a bird, sure, but I felt an intense urge to protect it. To make sure it got home safe. Reunited with its family.
We put the dog inside and placed the baby bird on our weedy lawn with a lid of water in front of it and stood back to see if it would try to move. It didn’t.
I thought it might already be too late.
But then it blinked, opened its mouth wide and cheeped.
What we can only assume were the parents started flitting around anxiously watching us. The Google Gods tell me they were White-cheeked Honeyeaters. After a few minutes the mama bird swooped down to feed it. I wanted to take a photo but I didn’t want to go any closer and scare it. Plus I’ve not had much luck with wild animals recently and had visions of the mama bird swooping me and becoming lodged in my eyeball. So I stayed well back.
|Image: Ralph Green|
We studied the trees around us and the five or six other identical birds swooping in and out of our neighbour’s tree that overhangs our fence provided a useful clue as to the whereabouts of the nest though we couldn’t actually see through the dense branches.
I ducked inside to call to the vet to find out exactly what we should do while MG kept guard. The receptionist said as long as the parents were still fretting and trying to feed it then we could put it on any branch in the tree and it would be helped back. If they weren’t? Well it was likely the little dude had been pushed and would just be pushed out again. Darwinism at it's finest.
By the time I came back the previously motionless bird had flapped it’s wings and managed to half fly half jump a few metres. A definite improvement on its previous movement record of blinking. We took it as an excellent sign that it was in fact not on death's door.
Map Guy put the bird back in the shoebox, made all the more difficult now that it had decided to attempt this ass-bumping half fly half jump routine and lifted it in to the tree. Then the most amazing thing happened... the whole tree, full of Honeyeaters we hadn't even seen, erupted in tweets.
As in the cheep cheep kind, not the @MamaHoneyeater: “OMG @BabyHoneyeater is being lifted in to the tree by @MapGuy83 while @Glowless looks on holding that kid with the cheeks” kind.
Now it might be my hormones or the fact that my rellies are here from interstate for their own reunion to see their dying mum, my Nanna, but the loud and frenzied cheeping heralding his homecoming pulled at my heartstrings with its unmistakably triumphant chorus. They were overjoyed at the little guy's return and all I could think about was how my Nanna would have felt that same joy in these last few days, seeing her five children at her bedside.
We stood and watched the baby bird hop from branch to branch until he was deep inside the protective arms of the tree. He was home. Safe and sound.
And it was all I could do not to weep.
Postscript: I wrote this at 4pm on the 7th of October and set it to publish for the morning. Just after 9pm my Nanna died after a long illness. I'm sure she chose to go then because she was finally secure in the knowledge that her five children were home. Safe and sound.