Sunday, May 22, 2011

To Catch a Mockingbird

The other day while I was at work, WH called to inform me of a rogue crow who had gotten himself into a little trouble over at his parents' building.  It seems that the little guy (I'm assuming it was male, but feel free to reassign the gender in your reading of this tale) had gotten himself wedged in between a window and where the laundry room was.  He was being dutifully watched by two of his crow pals, who were squawking up a storm.  This went on for a day or so, watched carefully by WH's mother.  Finally, they could take it no more so WH went to building management to see if someone might help free the bird.  They would not.  This prompted a call to Animal Control, who couldn't indicate when they might arrive, so WH took matters into his own hands.

He took a broom and went down to save the little fella. The little bird was freed, all the while under the watchful eye of his two crow buddies.  By this point, Animal Control had arrived and informed WH that the buddies were in fact the crow's parents and he was a juvenile.  Fortunately, after a little while for the bird to "shake it off," he was fine and able to fly off with his parents.  This, of course, reminded me of my own adventure in the animal kingdom. 

Back during the Summer of Paula, I was living at home with my parents.  One night, I heard a squeaking and a scratching coming from the ceiling above my bed.  I figured it was probably a squirrel, and forgot about it until the next night when I heard it again. This went on for a few days, when I finally was able to convince my dad that there was something up there that needed eradicating.

One hot June Saturday, my dad propped up the ladder and climbed into our attic.  There he found a nest with four baby mockingbirds and a ripped screen where their mother had gotten in.  The nest was in the far back corner of the sweltering attic, and the birds were parched.  He plugged the hole so the mother couldn't get back in a peck his eyes out while he rescued the babies, and attempted to crawl into the corner to catch them.  Already pretty mobile and nearly ready to fly, the babies had other plans.  They flapped and hopped and went even further into the reaches of the attic.  My dad couldn't get to where he could reach them.  After a few choruses of "goddammit!" I was recruited to help.  You see, I have what we in the business like to call monkey arms.  They are longer than normal, and skinny, skinny, skinny.  They can reach into crevices only reachable by broom handles and fishing poles.

I changed my clothes and wriggled my way into the attic.  It felt like being sucked into a dryer.  Armed with garden gloves and a cardboard box, I chased the babies around the unfinished attic with my monkey arms.  Taking care to not bang my head on a beam or an exposed nail, I managed to catch three of the four birds and send them back down the ladder.  I could hear the mother bird squawking up a storm outside.  I took a breather to get cooled off and regroup my plan to save bird #4.  A headstrong little fella, this bird was laboring under the delusion that the 147-degree attic would make a delightful permanent home.  What could I say, he was young and foolish and needed to be taught a lesson.  I'm sure in retrospect, he would agree with me that this wasn't one of his better decisions.

Baby mockingbirds outside Klaus
Photo by Jason Riedy via Flickr

Up I went, armed with my cardboard box and my weapon of choice -- monkey arms.  It was a battle of wits and wills that I was determined to win.  So was #4.  We squared off, like to boxers in a ring.  He with the advantage of speed and knowledge of the territory, while I was fully hydrated and outweighed him by about 100 times.  He looked me in the eye and braked left.  I was nearly atop him when he faked right and hopped over a beam.  It's all a blur of feathers and insulation, but eventually I did prevail.  Cursing, I reached out to grab him, and he surrendered to my garden glove.  Once inside the box, he quieted and settled in for the ride down the ladder and into the bushes with his brothers and sisters. 

Once triumphant, I was a good sport and didn't lord it over the bird.  He was only a baby, after all, and didn't have the advantage of my wisdom.  I gave him a little talking to as I released him into the bushes . . . encouraging him not to be so stubborn in the future, as he would likely not find a neighborhood cat so friendly and helpful as myself.  I'm not sure what happened to #4 and his siblings, but I'd like to think they made their home in a tree somewhere and carefully avoided all attics.  And maybe, just maybe, somewhere in mockingbird land, there's a statue erected in my honor.  I'm pretty sure I'm wearing garden gloves in it and the length of my monkey arms is grossly exaggerated, but this is the cross a hero has to bear.


  1. Poor birdies!! we have some unfortunate guys who fight with their reflections in my window every year... I dunno what to do to keep them from hurting themselves, but we literally get them every year.

  2. I guess that's why there's the term "bird brained." They seem to prove it every chance they get...