Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Nature study on a whim

Published July 2004

Messy mud swallows. You either love ‘em or you hate them. For me, it’s a battle that always ends up a draw every year. The birds usually win though. I thought the nests were finally empty since Spring sprung a little early this year. Assuming the little ones graduated and headed wherever mud swallows go after they have pooped their infancy away on my driveway, cars and porch, I got out the hose yesterday and put the stream setting on Jet Mode and starting firing away. Sheepishly I admit, this was a poor assumption on my part. Never assume anything since apparently mud swallows sublet to sparrows for the summer. I had just spent the months of April and May monitoring a robin nest near my front door so I thought I was the aviary expert. I obviously jumped the gun.

The little guy fell on top of his mud nest and was probably only about a week old based on Anna Comstock (our nature study author). Other than being a little wet, he was intact but a little surprised to see the sun. So, what do you do when you become a home wrecker? Well, after running around in a panic and apologizing to my children who were pretty upset with me, I was so nutty at one point, I picked up the baby bird and held him up to the sky while exclaiming, “yoo-hoo, I’ll just put him over here in this robin nest by my front door…it’s a very nice nest. You come take care of him here”.

Unfortunately, the message didn’t get through. Birds do not understand English nor do they wish to relocate on a whim (or the Tsunami created by my power hose). My children had a better idea. “Mom, call the wildlife people”. Sierra wildlife rescue in El Dorado takes critters big or small, injured or not and treats them and feeds them until they can be released back into the wild. At this time of the year, they are full of birds that have fallen and can’t get up, so to speak.

I made the call and was given explicit instructions. The bird should be in a box. I was to get in my car and be as quiet as possible. Radio was to remain off, but the air conditioner was Ok. I was to drop off the bird, fill out some paperwork (uh-oh, was I going to be busted for some illegal hose versus nest infraction)? They assured me this would not be the case but that the paperwork was required by the Department of Fish and Game. After this, they would take over, assign him a case number and hopefully take care of him until he could fly the coup, or the shelter as the case seemed to be. This involves taking him to his natural habitat (which would be somewhere near my house, or yours, I’m sure) and then allowing him to be natural again. Sounds like a peach. If he comes back, he’ll have to start from scratch because as soon as summer is done, I’m taking the mess down again which is my annual September chore. When March approaches again next year, let the battles begin.

The kids really enjoyed seeing the baby bird safe and warm in his new incubator. We looked over Sierra’s flyers and it seems they need volunteers all the time. My older two are very interested in this. My seven year old, cried and whined in the car all the way home, demanding a waiver on the age restrictions so that she could go to Sierra and take care of baby bob-cats. Whoa!

Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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