Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I’m feeling a little like the Bird Woman of Beersheba.
For the last two weeks, birds – wild birds, not Mario and Luciano, my two lustily-singing parakeets – have stolen my peace of mind, causing me to spend undue hours fretting about their well-being. Unlike the pesky wee mouse of previous posts, these are critters I’d like to see survive.
It all started when a momma bird – okay, all right, could have been a poppa bird, I personally can’t tell the difference – anyway this bird started building a nest on the inside wall of my outside room.
What kind of bird? I knew you’d ask. I have no idea, but it’s not a song bird or anything particularly interesting. These are very common birds, reddish-brown pigeon-like creatures you see all over the place. It’s about the size of a standard-size dove, but with an interestingly long and curved beak.
I thought it was rather cute, to tell the truth. Here’s this bird – I named her ‘Anna’, and if you love Nevada Barr’s books as much as I do, you’ll get the connection. Anyway, day by day, Anna carefully ferried bits of sticks or straw or whatever else she can find into my patio, and placed it on a teeny little ledge I’d hardly noticed before. The ledge is very small, four inches, tops, which is why I didn’t take seriously the idea that she was going to build a nest and actually lay eggs there. Anna herself is almost four inches wide. It looked too small for her to do much of anything with it.
Anna, apparently, didn’t think so. Open and notoriously, she set about building her nest. I’d be sitting on my loveseat, just below her, and she’d be working away, flying in and out of the room, completely oblivious of my presence. The ledge is maybe at the six foot level, so I can’t see into it, but I had no problem at all seeing the nest that was emerging.
The days passed, a couple weeks, even, and I’d become accustomed to Anna and her friends – maybe even a husband or best friend – flying in and out. Fine with me.
Then I began to notice that Anna was staying in her nest almost all the time. Oh, no. She hadn’t actually laid eggs there, had she?
I waited until Anna flew away, then put a stepping stool several feet from the nest, high enough to let me peek in – and indeed, there were at least four eggs nestled in the tiny abode.
Even then at that early moment, I knew Beersheba had a problem. Not because I didn’t want Anna and her children there – I rather liked them. But my other roommates, two sizeable dogs, love to play. Sooner or later Anna’s children would need to leave the nest – and if they did, and if my roommates found them on the ground, they were toast. Not that my roommates would set out to destroy, necessarily. They just like to play, and they aren’t really aware of their own strength.
Which is exactly what happened.
A few more weeks passed, and soon I could see tiny little heads peeking over the side of the nest. The heads grew and grew – at first I thought there were three, but now I think there’s only two. Whatever, the two birds in the nest had grown pretty big.
As of last Friday, they were big enough to stand up and to stretch and flap their wings – literally. Friday morning, I was just leaving to make a quick run for a newspaper and bread, when I saw one of the baby birds standing on the edge of the nest, spreading his wings. Oh no, I thought. He’s not going to try to fly, is he?
That’s not good – my dogs need to have the run of the house and yard when I’m gone. If the baby bird tried to fly, and didn’t quite make it to whatever other high point he might have in mind, he’d most likely fall into the clutches -- make that jaws – of one of the dogs.
I went back in the house, called the dogs inside, shut the doors and stayed home. Let the bird take his maiden flight in relative safety.
Except that he – or she – didn’t fly. I stayed in the house – croaking because of the heat that built up behind closed doors. We three waited for several hours. Every now and then I’d open the door a little and check, but both birds stayed in the nest, or at least on the ledge.
Finally I couldn’t stand it anymore – it was too hot. I opened the doors, the dogs ran out…… and nothing happened. The birds stayed in place. Not that my roommates were ignorant of what was going on. Rachel the mostly-Poodle took up a “watch” position with a big grin on her face, the kind that says, “Let’s play!” But nothing happened.
Shabbat morning, I was sure: This was the day the baby birds would fly. Again I kept the dogs in the house all through the early morning, time when we’re usually all outside, enjoying the cooler morning air. But this Shabbat we stayed inside.
The birds stayed put, too. Everything was peaceful. I even considered staying home from shul so I could keep the dogs in the house, but finally nixed that idea. I decided to let Ha Kadosh-Baruch-Hu take care of His birds. If today was the day – for whatever ending this story might have -- then so be it.
I came home from shul, but everything was quiet. In the early afternoon, I went to sit outside – again just a few feet from the nest, and – a baby bird flew!
I couldn’t believe it. I was sitting on the loveseat. Rachel was sound asleep at my feet, sweltering. And the baby bird flew – it landed about five feet from Rachel’s nose, but – miracle of all miracles -- Rachel didn’t wake up.
The bird looked around, decided to fly a little more, and this time perched up on the patio railing, again within easy reach of either dog. They paid no attention whatever. Rachel snored and Molly Goldberg, the mostly-Border Collie, was dreaming of chasing sheep or something worthy of the effort, certainly not birds.
The baby bird flew back to the nest.
As far as I know, the other bird hasn’t flown yet, although I wouldn’t necessarily know. There are still two heads in the nest, two baby birds that are now look like teenagers. I can’t figure it out – how are they eating? What are they eating? Or drinking? It’s very hot – don’t they need more water than they must be getting? I’ve put a pail of water out – within bird-reach, out of dog-reach, and the level goes down, but I don’t see any birds drinking.
Anna, dutiful mother that she is, still flies in and out, dozens of times a day. In fact, although it’s hard to tell, I think she has some help in caring for these babies. I could be wrong, but I think at least two different birds tend the nest.
Now I’m wondering if a family home has been created there, and multiple generations will come to consider this The Home Place.
That’s not ideal. I like the birds, but I’m too atzbonit – anxious and edgy – about the safety of the little ones. I’d like them to have a fair chance at life – and I can’t be around, watching, to guarantee it.
So there’s where we are. There’s no end to this story yet – except to tell you that this blog took four hours to write.
Why? Because I was searching all over the internet to find a picture of this specific bird – I tried all kinds of Google combinations, “Israeli pigeon”, “doves and pigeons”, “common Israeli birds”.
It was that last search – ‘common Israeli birds’ – that got me in trouble. I clicked on one site, and saw some amazingly naughty photos. Whew! Not birds – or not feathered ones, anyway.
I was sitting in awe, wondering what on earth I’d done, when a message flashed across my screen: WARNING! YOUR COMPUTER IS UNDER ATTACK!! YOUR EMAILS AND SECURE INFORMATION ARE BEING COPIED!!
Then another popup appeared, this one telling me that I “must” run this virus protector now, since “all my secure data is in the process of being copied.” Like most normal humans, I panicked – I almost hit the “run” box, but when I looked more closely, I saw it wasn’t a message from Norton, my protection system. Instead, I shut down the computer itself.
I turned it back on, then ran a complete virus scan – which took several hours. Norton found nothing at all. The warning was a scam.
I don’t know who lives in a more dangerous world: baby birds or naïve computer users. “Common Israeli birds”? Gimme a break.
Now at least you know why I haven’t included a photo of the actual birds who share my outside room.