When I was a little girl of around 8 years old, I found a fledging. It was stuck under a bush, not moving much. I watched it for a while, waiting for its mother to show up in a little bird apron, saying, “Where have you been? Come home right now! Wait till your father hears about this!”
Alas, neither mother nor father showed up. It appeared the bird was abandoned. So I got a shoebox, filled it with grass, used a jar lid for water, and, on the advice of my mother, fed the bird raw hamburger. Within several days, the bird was strong enough to fly away. I watched it go with great pride and a little sadness because I wished it would stay and be my roommate forever.
Like most people, I have a great fondness for birds. No matter the species, I find them a wondrous gift of nature. Their songs are joyful: I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any anti-depressant that offered such a quick fix. (And no side effects!) They provide useful services to the ecosystem. They can be little comics, what with the way they take baths in puddles or dust.
And I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone thrills to the sight of a bird sitting on eggs, then nurturing its young, then teaching them to fly away: a great life lesson. Most of us stare in appreciation when hawks soar overhead, when egrets stand still and graceful in water, when pelicans swoop down to capture dinner, when a chevron of geese flies by, when birds sit on a wire just like in the song.
It has long been my habit to sit on the porch in the morning and wait for the birds to come. But I’ve noticed something: not so many come any more. And on my walks, I don’t see many hopping on lawns or flying from tree to tree. Many say birds are in free fall, so many dying, and this breaks my heart.
What to do?
Well, one thing you might consider is coming to the next Writing Matters event this Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m., at the Hemingway Museum. Our author will be Tony Fitzpatrick, who has just released his latest — gorgeous! — book, a mix of essays and collage art, called The Secret Birds. Those of you familiar with Tony know he’s not just a charismatic writer and artist, but a playwright, actor, former radio host and real Chicago character.
Tony will do a presentation on birds, and talk about himself and his art. We will have a warm-up act in the form of Diann Bilderback, a longtime birder, who will share some of her wisdom about, and experiences with, birds. And we will have a live raptor there, either a red-tailed hawk or an owl.