Among the early signs of spring are birds. Cold and silent, winter mornings have their own form of beauty, but hearing the birds is cause for hope. The bird world looks cheerful and peaceable but it is a competitive and often harsh place. My office window looks out onto a porch roof and a stand of trees across the street. Electric wires constitute a part of the scene as well, giving birds plenty of places to alight and negotiate their bird business. Like humans, birds are vulnerable, particularly when they’re young. While teaching at Nashotah House, walking home from chapel one morning after a thunderstorm, I found a baby bird, not yet fully fledged, dying on the sidewalk. I glanced up and couldn’t see any nests. I’m not much of climber anyway. Not knowing what to do I scooped it up and took it home where I could put it in a box.
I didn’t have an early class that day so I called a wildlife rescue center. Being the days before the internet took over, this was a matter of looking it up in the yellow pages. We piled the family in the car and drove it down. They’d told me to keep it warm and try to comfort it. My daughter held it. Once we got there they said they weren’t sure if it would survive. It was weak and chilled, but they would do what they could to revive it. For several days we all worried about that hatchling. I thought it might’ve been a finch because of the beak, but otherwise we knew little about it. Several weeks later the rescue center called. Our rescue was ready to be released—did we want to do it?
They handed us a brown grocery bag that weighed next to nothing. “Open it when you’re outside near where you found it,” they said. Back on campus we opened the bag and our foundling flew off so fast we could barely see it. Adult birds, confident and socialized, seem more sure of themselves. They perch out in the open even though hawks scan the area, and even the occasional eagle. They go about their bird business with a confidence I sometimes envy. They don’t worry about a 925. They know what nature’s about. They may have survived a near-fatal childhood. They may have pushed siblings out of the nest to have thrived. They peck and flap at each other in their efforts to mate. And, above all, they carry spring on their wings.