My wife Carolyn loves animals, but she has a special affinity for birds.
She’s always puttering around the house putting up new feeders, birdhouses or baths, and luring them with her combination of seeds, fruits and insects.
She gets pictures of new species that might be flying in to nest or just passing through Carolyn’s Bird Haven. She documents on the calendar the first day of arrival each year for various migrating birds (hummingbirds especially) and is particularly pleased when a new species chooses to try out her newest Bird B&B. No payment is required, though it seems the birds never fail to leave an obligatory deposit.
I guess “the chirp” is out that the Normans have quite an avian buffet at the ready for newcomers as well as the regulars.
About 10 years ago Carolyn agreed to take in and nurture three crow fledglings. The first day we had them and unbeknownst to me, Carolyn had placed them in a large box on top of the washer in the laundry room. I walked in and they let out an ear-piercing “Caw, Caw, Caw!”
Well, I let out a little something myself, and I’ll guarantee you it wasn’t a “Caw.” ‘Bout scared me to death.
Regardless, she adopted these feathered friends and named them “Dewey,” “Edgar” and “Fiddler.” They began to trust and recognize her. She’d feed them several times a day and soon they could perch and hop around pretty good.
The best I could do was “tolerate” the noisy, demanding creatures until the day came when Carolyn designated me as official “birdsitter of the day” while she went off to work. It was my duty to tend to them.
Uninspired, but with food in hand, I came around the corner of the house to the side yard where the crows were all positioned on their perch. They saw me with their bird breakfast in the bucket, and when I hollered “Okay, birds, I got food” lo and behold, they jumped off their perch and came hopping at me like ravenous puppies. As my daddy would say, “Dangdest thing I ever saw.”
I hated to admit it, but that was a turning point for me, and I conceded to the adoption. Over the next couple of weeks those birds grew to flying stage and sorta became pets along the way. Crows are smart and could identify us immediately. Shoot, we could walk outside, clap our hands, holler for them, and here they’d come swooping in from trees.
They’d land on our shoulder or outstretched arm, or in Carolyn’s case, her head. (Edgar had a thing for blondes.) As much as we enjoyed this venture and the mutual relationship that developed with the birds, we knew it best that they not become dependent on us.
Besides, they started devolving from pets to pests — scratching up the roof of our cars with their talons, waking us up at the crack of dawn at the back door squawking for breakfast and reminding us of their presence by leaving little “presents” behind on our patio.
Though it took a couple days of scheming, we were able to lure the birds into cages and took them off a few miles away where we knew there were other nesting crows and plenty of water.
Sentimental as it was, letting them go was a good thing to do. The right thing. More recently, Carolyn had the opportunity to nurture an injured cedar waxwing back to health. She used an eyedropper for water and tweezers to feed it a mixture of mealworms, diced blueberries and grass. Disgusting stuff.
He had a voracious appetite and would eat out of her hand. Through Carolyn’s flair for care and tender touch, this bird was flyworthy within two weeks. We took CW over to a friend’s house where there were other cedar waxwings, and as Carolyn let him go, the bittersweet moment gave way to exhilaration as CW joined his family in the trees.
In a deeper sense, there was great satisfaction in knowing Carolyn had given life and freedom back to one of God’s little creatures. For if the Good Lord knows when a sparrow falls from the sky, then surely He knows when a cedar waxwing takes flight. It warmed our hearts to be a part of the plan.
Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.