How a small speaker and a stolen nest saved two lives
Okay, so they were birds, not humans, but we saved them. My son and I. Two baby gray catbirds. Saved. Because of us. With one small speaker and a stolen nest. Saved.
Today is Sunday and last Friday morning, at 2:30 am, a storm arrived in our area. There is a skylight in the bathroom off our bedroom and the hail hitting it woke me up. The rain was POURING out of the clouds. Lightning flashed every 1.5 seconds. And then every 10 seconds or so, I’d hear a distance thunder growl. Rain, rain, rain, rain. Bang, bang, bang (hail). Flash…flash, flash……….flash. Boom.
Our dog, Lucky boo-boo, hates loud bangs and she was off the bed and in my closet with the first small boom. Maybe it was her movement that woke me. I don’t remember. What I do know is this storm went on for at least 30 minutes before I finally fell back to sleep.
I didn’t think much of the storm the next morning, other than I was thankful for the rain. The plants and our well needed it. I woke up early. Let Lucky outside. The grass was soaking wet but the sidewalks were mostly dry, so the rain had stopped awhile ago.
I came back inside, made coffee, checked the news, and then decided to take the dog for a walk. My son came too. Upon our return, I wandered through our front yard, which I never do. I usually head to the house to throw away a poop bag but this time, I wandered. Our front yard is BIG, like over an acre big, so there were lots of places I could have chosen to walk and had I done so, I would have missed the birds. And Lucky probably would have gotten them later in the day. Ewww. I don’t even like to think about it.
So Lucky and I wandered around the side of this island of trees/plants we have in the front yard. And as we were walking I noticed one, then another, then another, and then the final one. Four baby birds lying on the ground. I could see two of them moving. I bent down to get a closer look at the other two and watched them for a few moments. No breathing. No movement. They were gone, but the other two? Hanging on, but just barely it seemed. Eyes closed. Matted feathers. One tilted sideways, as if they had a broken wing. The other just sitting there, deep breathing.
I called my son’s name, he had wandered a different direction, and he came over and I said, “Look, baby birds. Four of them. Do you see their nest?” And we began perusing the tree, looking at every limb to find their home.
“There it is!” I shouted. And sure enough, of course at the very top, probably 20 feet or more above the ground, was a nest. And that’s when we heard her. Mama bird. Calling for her babies. She was jumping from branch to branch, frantic, mewing at us. Because that’s what she is, a gray catbird. Very common to Maryland.
My son and I contemplated how to get the birds back into the nest. No ladder we had was tall enough. Nothing was going to reach. And what to do with the other two? Sigh. “We’re not taking care of them,” I told him. “Look at their mama, she’s looking all over for them! We can’t take them away.” We watched her flit from branch to branch, somehow knowing they were there but unable to help.
“Well we can’t just leave them here,” my son said.
No, we couldn’t just leave them here. The local fox or our dog or a coyote would get them soon enough. We picked up the dead babes and disposed of them. We then took a never-used empty nest from one of our bluebird boxes, my son’s brilliant idea, and we placed the nest in the crook of the crabapple tree and then placed the baby birds in it.
“I’m not sure this is going to work,” I told my son. But we knew we didn’t have many other options. We walked to the porch, about 100 feet away to see if mama would find them. She didn’t. They were silent, probably in shock, not calling to her, barely moving. And mama was still frantic, calling every 2 seconds to find them, flitting 20 feet in the air around their original nest.
We left, knowing we would check back in an hour to see how things were going.
And when we did, the baby birds were still there. Still alive. And mama was still frantically looking for them. That’s when I got an idea.
I took a little bluetooth speaker and set it at the base of the tree. I connected it to my phone and sat as far away from the tree as I could while still staying connected. I found a baby gray catbird video, where the baby bird was chirping. I played the video, hitting ‘Play again’ every time it stopped. As soon as I began playing these quiet little chirps, mama bird’s voice grew louder and more frequent! She could hear them, she just couldn’t find them. Finally, after about 10 video replays, I stopped the speaker and backed away from the tree.
And finally, she flew down lower in the tree, and found her babes.
That was three days ago and I am happy to report, the babes are still alive. Still in the crook of the tree, getting ready to fledge.
And the next morning, we checked on them and they had turned around!
Then today, when we checked on them (which we do every morning, a few times during the day, and then again in the evening), they had left the nest and were sitting beside it.
Mama bird was so mad at me, she dive bombed my head, for the second time. I quietly reminded her that I SAVED her babes and she had better be nice and let me take a photo. She was having none of it. Hence the poor quality of the photo.
And so tonight, we will check on them again. My research found that gray catbird babies only stay in their nests for 10-13 days. We have no idea how old these chicks are, but because they have moved out of the nest, I am guessing they will fully fledge this afternoon or tomorrow.
I had tears in my eyes when we went back and saw that she had not only found them, but had not abandoned them. With two less babes, and in someone else’s home, she found them, accepted them, fed them and continued on.
I have lots of thoughts about immigrant children being taken from their mothers’ at the border and current abortion laws and women’s rights and politics. Sometimes I feel like I don’t and can’t do much to invoke change.
So today, I chose to help a mother. Not a human, mother, but a mother all the same. One filled with distress because she couldn’t find her babes and then anger when the big human wouldn’t let them be. And inside that little bird is a momma bear who swopped down to chase away the big human. That mother instinct flows deep.
I wonder what she felt when she finally found her babes, albeit two fewer than she began with. Was she elated to find two still alive? Did she tell hem how much she loved them? Did they recognize the smaller size of their family? Was there any mourning? Did she yell at the remaining two because they were acting like children in the middle of a storm and ended up de-homing themselves? Did the two recognize how close they were to joining their siblings on the other side?
Although I’ll never know, she’s a momma.
And I’m a momma.
So I know there was a grand celebration that occurred when she found them and at the very least, a moment for the two who were lost. All of that life saving and mourning and celebrating, right in my front yard. In the crook of an older crab apple. All because of a stolen nest and a little speaker.
We saved two lives, my son and I. I don’t think either one of us will soon forget.