Saturday, August 01, 2020

Why My Neighbor Calls Me Wonder Woman



Many months ago, after the battle of the Blue Jays versus the Robins was waged and the Robins won the territory of my back yard, a mama Robin set up housekeeping in the elbow of the downspout just under my roof. The nest was a tidy affair for a Robin, and it was about eight feet from my back door which opens onto my patio. She also lives above my herb garden. Here it is:


My neighbor right next door, Gretchen, and I started watching immediately for babies. We talked over her fence and texted any observations. I made sure to quietly and soothingly speak to the Robin every time I went out the back door, congratulating her on her stalwart and persistent attendance to her duties as a Mother. I called her Mama. I complimented her on her babies. She clutched (so far), astonishingly, three times. 

All was well with the most recent round of babies until about two weeks ago or so when I went to take out the garbage. I looked up as I always do and was shocked to see a naked, potbellied baby bird hanging over the side of the nest. It moved weakly and seemed stuck somehow. Its mother was out gathering food. I watched a few more minutes, trying to see how it was stuck. It was facing me; it seemed to be literally hanging by its neck. I went inside to think about what to do. I decided that if in fifteen minutes, the mother had not somehow saved her baby, I would do it for her.

Of course, I didn't wait fifteen whole minutes. I checked outside sooner and found the poor thing still hanging there. I grabbed latex gloves and the 8-foot step ladder. As I climbed up, the mother appeared on the wire and began chirping in distress. I had to go to the step nearest the very top and lean over. The baby struggled as I touched it; its wings were very strong. I carefully held it and dislodged it from the stiff straw and sticks then flipped it gently back into the nest. 

My relationship with Mama was severely compromised. Her trust was shattered. To her, I had not saved her baby, but had tried to raid the nest and steal it. I felt terrible.

A few days later when I was out tending my herbs, not only did Mama scold me from the wire above, but her husband hopped around, flapping his wings and yelling, only six feet away from me. I was The Enemy for sure.

This past Sunday when we returned from our weekend at the lake, Gretchen called me. "Lots of drama with the Robins," she said. "We were barbecuing and all of a sudden we heard a lot of flapping and banging. One of the babies was hanging upside down from the nest. It couldn't fly away or something. It just kept hanging there. We went in, and later, I guess it finally made it back in the nest. It's there now and it looks fine."

The robin, big enough to fledge, was still there on Monday and Tuesday, just standing at the nest, looking around. We both wondered why it hadn't left the nest. Wednesday morning, before I made my coffee at 7:30, I looked out, and this was happening (video courtesy of Gretchen):


I saw Gretchen on her back porch. I opened my dining room window and she immediately told me that this was the same thing she saw on Friday. "I honestly think she's stuck on something. Wait there a minute." She went inside and got a high-powered camera lens. "Nance, she's definitely stuck. Her leg looks red and raw."

"Okay," I said. "I'll get the ladder and get right on it."

I grabbed another pair of gloves, slipped on my gardening shoes, and went out in my jammies (an old white v-neck tee of Rick's and a pair of boxers, both XL). I grabbed the ladder, positioned it in my herb garden so that it wouldn't hurt anything, and climbed on up. This time, I swear that every single Robin in the neighborhood was there. At least ten of them perched on wires and roofs and branches, all with admonitions and, possibly, advice.

As soon as I could get a better look, I saw the poor Robin's one leg was vastly swollen at the joint. It wasn't rubbed red or raw, though. As I looked more closely, my heart ached. The baby was held fast in place by fishing line that was used as nesting material. It had become embedded in its leg and its leg had merely grown around it. It would never be able to leave the nest--unless I helped it.

I told Gretchen I needed scissors and why. She came out of her house with four pair of varying sizes and shapes. (Bless her heart; I just love her.) I chose the pair I felt would be best for the job and carefully cut the line in two places. As soon as I did, the bird fluttered madly and landed--free--on my patio rug. I felt I had to decamp as quickly as possible before more relatives arrived; I was getting creeped out.

Gretchen and I rejoiced, but she had to rush in and return to work. I put the ladder away and went in to Officially start my day. In a minute or two, my phone dinged with a text message. It was from Gretchen, a GIF of Wonder Woman running. "This is you coming out to save that bird today! Make sure Rick recognizes and rewards you for your heroic acts!" 

Yesterday, I got my ladder and gloves out again to get all the fishing line out of that nest. Gretchen told me she's seen the baby Robin several times, and I have, too. It's flying just fine. If Mama Robin goes for a fourth clutch, they'll all be safe. But, if something should happen, Wonder Woman will be On It.

22 comments:

  1. Marvelous - wish people would be more careful and considerate of wildlife. I hate plastic bags and balloons too (turtles eat them)

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    1. Eileen--Thanks. Robins are notorious for grabbing any flotsam and jetsam for their nests. Hard to know where she got that fishing line. There was a bit of grocery plastic bag in there, too, but it was shredded and not a threat.

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  2. Clapping wildly for you from way over here in Pennsylvania!!! YOU ROCK!

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    1. Dee--Thank you from your neighbor in NEO!

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  3. every neighborhood needs a Wonder Woman! Great rescue job♥

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    1. susan q--I think every neighborhood needs a hero, too, and I'm glad to be one for the birds. Thanks for the kudos.

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  4. You've made my day with this story! God bless you.

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    1. Bridget--Oh, good! I'm glad to bring you a bright spot. Thank you.

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  5. I love this story and your act of kindness. People like you and Gretchen caring about wildlife makes the world a better place.

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    1. Jean--Thank you. I was so lucky when Gretchen and Kevin and their family moved in next door.

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  6. What a fabulous story! And TRUE!!! You are Wonder Woman. Thank you for saving that poor little robin.

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    1. Vera--It's all true. And you don't have to call me Wonder Woman; Nance is fine. I'm so happy to have saved that robin, and I'd do it again in a flash. (I hope I never have to, though.)

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  7. Hooray for wildlife heroes!!!! Birds flying around me and flapping would make me fall off any ladder. YOU ARE A WONDEr

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    1. kathy b--LOL! I'm happy to add Wildlife Hero and Wonder to my resume now. Thanks!

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  8. Fishing line... who knew? A lovely story and a bright spot in my day. (I would have been petrified of that momma Robin, lol!)

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    1. Ortizzle--Right? Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you brightened up from my escapades. I wonder now if all my interference has ruined that nesting spot. I hope not.

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  9. Well done, Wonder Nance. Sad about the fishing line. I try to police our yard for materials that would be harmful in nests, but it is impossible to get or think of it all.

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    1. Mary--Thank you. It is sad that Mama Robin found and used fishing line. It's impossible to know where and how she got it. Robins grab stuff all over the place. I put out yarn scraps during nesting season, but she had none of those in her nest. It was mostly mud, grasses, small sticks, and some shreds of plastic, like grocery bags. And they compete for material, too, so it's a tough situation all around.

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  10. The best story I have read all week! Thank goodness for you and your neighbor, looking over those wonderful birds. Even if they told you off a bit you saved them in the end and that is all that matters. Stay safe.

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    1. Meredith--Yay! Gretchen and I really do share a love for wildlife and we both are observant of our birdlife in our tiny back yards. She's a terrific neighbor and friend.

      Yes, the Robin population has put the word out that I am Bad News, which is unfortunate, but I'm glad I helped and I'd do it again and again.

      Staying safe here in NEO. Thanks for caring.

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  11. A sweet story. You done good, as they used to say where I grew up. No wonder you are now Wonder Woman. Proud to know you.

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    1. Ally--Thank you, thank you. I really felt I had no choice. I just saw that baby today, on the back fence above our waterfall. She's unsteady on that poor leg, but she flies like a champ.

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