Yesterday morning welcomed us with the first 70° temperatures we have experienced all summer. Until today, the morning lows had been in the upper 80° ranges and into the low 90’s. FD and I enjoyed the beauty of this cool morning by walking around the yard, filling bird baths, starting sprinklers, and checking out the heat-exhausted trees. Most trees and shrubs were dropping leaves and showing signs of stress. My flower beds looked as if they had been torched. I had just recently given up the battle and let the tomato garden perish. It had produced well early on, and for that I was thankful. The other garden still has some yellow squash, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and ground cherries for Daisy deer. Our sweet potato vines crawl across it endlessly. Watering this garden every other day is all that keeps anything in it alive.
As we headed toward the canyon to check the water tub and feeders down below the slope, FD spotted a juvenile robin that had a droopy wing and was performing a hopping run, fleeing from us. I knew it before he even said anything; the bird was injured and FD would have to investigate. My first thought was to leave it alone. It was still mobile. But FD insisted on catching it and examining the injured wing. He feared the many feral cats in the area would easily nab it in its injured condition. I secretly hoped he would not be able to catch the bird. I did not wish to bother with a bird, adding its care to my already busy summer chores. We had rehabilitated birds before. It’s one thing to raise a nestling, but a far more difficult feat to deal with an already wild bird. I walked on to the canyon hoping FD would fail in his attempt to capture the fledgling… but soon, I heard a squeak. Drat! He had caught it and I knew what that meant! Ugh.
Over the past few weeks, we had been observing quite a few fledgling robins in the yard. These youngsters soon advanced to the juvenile stage, traveling on their own and fending for themselves, keeping vigil at the bird baths, drinking water and finding cool shade under the old Elm trees. The past week had presented temperatures in the 109° to 113° range. Every bird and critter was keeping close to the water vessels, filled several times a day with fresh well water.
The juvenile robins hanging near the bird bath were a sweet sight to see. Their speckled breasts, big dark eyes, and the bright and happy sounding trill made me forget the extreme heat for a moment. It is this cheerfulness and pluck that make the robin one of my all-time favorite birds.
But now, my mind snapped back to one particular juvenile robin. That would be the one screaming like a banshee as FD carried him over to me. Giving in to what I knew had to come next, I retrieved the medium-sized bird cage from the storage building and set it up in the house. FD got busy examining the injured wing and decided everything felt fine and nothing was broken or torn. We hoped a few days rest, maybe a week, would have our little friend mended and back with his buddies under the elm trees.
As I stepped back to drape a sheet over three sides of the cage to help keep our new friend calm, I felt something wet under my bare foot. Bird poop! Great! FD hadn’t thought about bird droppings when he brought our little charge in the house. This was exactly why I was not fond of rehabilitating birds. What a mess they can be! I cleaned off my foot and sanitized the floor, then finished off the cage preparation by putting papers all around the perimeter.
With our little friend now settled in to his temporary apartment, I quickly got online and researched proper food for robins. I believe most everyone associates robins with eating worms. I discovered, however, they can also be fed egg yolks, dog food soaked in water, and berries of all sorts. Learning this, I hard-boiled a couple of eggs, soaked some of the Chindrin’s small-bites dog food, and chopped up a few blueberries. Our little friend liked the egg yolks and blueberries, but I couldn’t blame him for turning up his beak at the mushy dog food. I must say, it did look quite gross!
The article I read also mentioned offering other invertebrates, including grasshoppers, as food. Goodness knows we have plenty of those around the place lately. So off to the yard FD and I went with our kiddie-sized butterfly nets, hoping to scare up more food for our friend. Our efforts quickly produced about a dozen grasshoppers of assorted sizes, which our little guest loved having for his dinner!
This morning, I vowed to try to dig up some worms, though I was not too sure how successful I would be since the drought had likely driven the worms deep into the soil and made them scarce by now. I went to the garden, and after digging to the point my back was begging me to stop and my body was sweating profusely, I had only managed to uncover seven small grubs. I was pretty sure the robin would enjoy them, but they were not going to provide near enough food to get him through the day.
I brought the grubs in the house, put four of the writhing, white bodies on a paper plate and set them in the cage. Much to my surprise and pleasure, they were completely gobbled up within about two minutes! Obviously sporting a voracious appetite, my friend had eaten them much faster than I thought he would! “Yikes!”, I thought, now I needed to find more.
So back to the garden I went, shovel in hand and a new determination at heart. Unfortunately, I found only one more grub and zero worms. As I walked back to the house feeling rather dejected, I noticed my father-in-law feeding the chickens and stopped to tell him of my plight in seeking good eats for my injured friend. He simply suggested, “Well, you might check that little country store just outside of town. I think they have live bait there and you might find some worms”. I was flabbergasted and, feeling a bit sheepish, wondered why I hadn’t thought of that.
On a new mission now, I finished moving a couple of sprinklers and headed in the house just in time to hear the phone ringing. My father-in-law had already called the store and sure enough, they had worms. I thanked him, grabbed my purse, and took the short drive out west of town to fetch some earthworms for my hungry little friend.
The plump delicacies I found at the country store were just what I needed and, at the cost of $2.97, I sure couldn’t complain. Arriving home, I promptly dropped the first big, fat, squirming specimen in the cage and peeked around the corner of the sheet to observe. I saw my friend staring back at me. As with all of the other food I had placed in his cage, I could never manage to catch him eating it. He seemed to be very private about eating his meals, so I waited a couple of minutes and peeked again. This time, the worm was gone!
Soon after, our little fellow was singing and chirping a melody so happy that it softened my attitude about having to go to such an extent to find food for him. All of the time I had spent faunching, in my typical glass-half-empty-way, about what a chore caring for this bird was going to be, seemed so silly now, knowing that this happy trilling and chirping was to be my new morning delight!
I cannot tell you the number of times I have felt a certain dread at the onset of caring for some kind of wildlife. It is difficult work. It is tiring work. It eats up much of my day. Wildlife requires special handling. Sometimes it means getting pecked or bitten. Most of the time it is messy and requires a lot of sanitation and cleanup. Many times it is noisy work. And often, it is expensive. The rehabilitator pays for any veterinarian calls, facilities to house the species, supplies and food. When we are presented with a new, little charge that needs a mother or a nurse, I typically go straight to the negative thought of how much work it will be and the commitment and responsibility it will entail. And yet I know I will never say “no” to caring for and helping wildlife that needs me. Somewhere, in the compassionate and loving part of my soul, I know that it can never be any other way for me, that I will always help, nurture, care for, and love wildlife, because it gives back so much more to me than I ever provide for it.
As I end this post about my new little robin friend, I hear him singing, “Yeep, yeep, yeep, cuck, cuck, cuck… CheeeeeEEEEeeep, cuck, cuck, cuck!!” In robin talk, I think that translates to “Thank you VERY much for the worms, lady”! What a delightful and cheerful new sound! One that has provided the most glorious music to my ears, all day long! Oh my, am I beginning to see my glass now half-FULL? Which way is your glass today?
© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…