It’s a wonder he answers his phone at all, my friend Jay Coles, for when I call there is a 100% chance I am in dire need and the situation is an EMERGENCY. Why just a couple of weeks ago I was looking out the studio window when I noticed a bit of a bird ruckus and caught a glimpse of this unusual site.
Then I saw the Mama and Daddy bluebird were all a twitter, and the other birds were making a racket, and Tim came round to say, “I think the bluebird babies are fledging. I saw one on the grass a little while ago.”
“What?” I said. “WHAT? THEY’RE TOO LITTLE. IT’S NOT TIME. THEY CAN’T POSSIBLY BE OLD ENOUGH TO FLY.”
I grabbed my phone and quickly flipped to the last photos of the nest I’d taken. It was before we’d gone to the mountains, before I’d lost my ability to MONITOR THEIR EVERY MOVE. I checked the date. I could not be absolutely positively certain but I was pretty ding dang sure these babies were not more than ten days old.
“I’M CALLING JAY,” I said. “HE’LL KNOW WHAT TO DO.”
And he would, I knew he would as he is not only a fellow nature lover, he’s head of Carolina Wildlife Center, a local nonprofit that sees to the needs of innumerable small animals orphaned or injured in the wild. Every year among the thousands they care for are hundreds and hundreds of songbirds. Still deep inside I knew my fledging babies (which were neither orphaned nor injured) were hardly worth an emergency visit. Even if he is my dear friend. Even if he does live four doors down.
“I’ll be right there,” of course he said. (Jay is a saint the good lord sent to keep my feet on the ground, I swear. He has been my advisor and friend and protector on a number of important matters all across my life.) Tim and I waited and watched as the tiny baby hop hop hopped right into the daylilies, disappearing beneath the thick foliage.
Then here came Jay. We located the baby who was now standing on a rock perilously close to the edge of our pond.
“HE’LL DROWN IF HE FALLS IN! DO! SOMETHING! JAY!” At which my dear friend calmly walked over, gently put his hands around the sweet baby bird, then walked him back to the birdhouse.
He also explained, patient teacher to too-eager student: Unlike some other animals, birds are not ‘marked’ by human touch. You can safely pick up a baby and put it back in the nest.
“He IS too little, though. Don’t you think? He is too little to fly?”
“We’ll see,” said kind Jay.
Just about then something farther down the lawn moved, and this caught our collective eye, and we looked to see IT WAS ANOTHER BABY BLUEBIRD.
(Heavens to Betsy. Good lord. Good heavens they must be fledging.)
Jay collected baby #2 and returned it, as well, to the nest.
“BUT THEY ARE NOT OLD ENOUGH. I swear they’re not.”
“We’ll see,” he said. He smiled his Jay smile, then he and Tim walked off, to talk of other things.
THE NEXT DAY I went to work and was (blessedly) too busy to continue with this obsession. But late evening came, and as good fortune would have it Jay stopped by on a completely unrelated matter.
“Sure would love to know how many babies are in that nest!” I said this casually, just passing by, as he and Tim did whatever it was they were doing. “Sure would be grateful if somebody would crack open that box and take a quick peek!” (I would never do it as it can be a danger to the babies once they are older. But he had the know-how, I knew.) And he did, and lo and behold all four were there, and the following day, another check, and whew still all four!
I was relieved and humbly satisfied. And I left those parents to it.
SUNDAY, THEY DID fledge. (Praise hands!) Five days had passed, and my little heart was satisfied AND happy.
If you want to learn more about the important work of Carolina Wildlife Center, or if you need information about how to properly help injured or orphaned animals, click here. (They also have a wish list and opportunities to donate if you are so inclined.)