Yesterday we found an injured blackcap. A tiny warbler, that apparently migrates vast distances. She was on the side of a cycle path and clearly unable to get airborne. Most of her tail feathers were missing, so we inferred a cat attack. She did not resist being caught, and we carried her home.
The wisdom is that what you do with an injured bird is put it in a small box where it can’t hurt itself and can recover from shock, and if they’re ok, you let them go again. I’ve done cat rescues before and dealt with birds who have flown into windows. Little Miss had no desire to be in a box, and was lively enough to get the lid off and explore the bedroom. I went to collect her, and she climbed onto my hand. When I carefully stood up, she made no effort to be somewhere else, and so I ended up sitting with her perched on my hand for quite some time. She even had a little nap.
It gave me opportunity to look at her, to see the details of tiny feathers and feel the grip of pointy little feet. She didn’t mind voices, she seemed wholly at ease with me. The sense of awe brought on by having a wild thing choose, of its own free will, to stay with you, is a remarkable thing. She did get off my hand later, proving she could have done so any time, had she wished.
As she clearly couldn’t fly, we couldn’t help her. One car journey later, thanks to a friend mad enough to be a bird ambulance, and we found that no one could help her. She had a broken wing – and for a tiny migrant there is nothing that can be done with that kind of injury. And then she was gone. A tiny, brief miracle, strong enough to survive vast flights, but not equal to the pounce of a cat, and we were absolutely gutted.
As stories go, that would be one, but it isn’t quite the end. Arriving home in the twilight, tired and fragile ourselves, sleep seemed unlikely. A little owl called from somewhere outside the flat and we decided to go out for a bit. There’s a place not far from where we live, where bats are likely, so we went to see the bats – and there were a couple of pipistrelles, fluttering cheerfully against the backdrop of darkening blue sky. From nearby a barn owl called, and then a second. Really close. Then, to our amazement, they flew back and forth a couple of times between the trees. Distinctive owl shapes against the sky. I’ve never seen a wild barn owl before, only rescued and captive birds.
Life can be so precarious, so uncertain. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try, or how much you want to fix things, some things can’t be done. But I still think it’s important to show up and try to do the things, even if the odds look slim, even if there’s not much hope. And sometimes, not infrequently in fact, in amongst the hard things and the things that hurt, there are wonders. The brief miracle of a wild bird roosting on my hand. The flight of owls.