I’m sure those of you who read my columns are expecting a rant about our summer visitors on this Labor Day weekend. And I do hate to disappoint, but social media has taken the fun out of that. This summer I learned to seethe internally and had not one fight with an annoying individual.
I also learned how to avoid them. I stayed close to home on weekends and tended my garden, read a few summer novels, and went only to our secret beaches. Yes, we still have some. I also slept with a bird, which sounds weird and a bit kinky if you’re into birds, but let me explain.
On a warm summer night right after enjoying a seasonal meal of fish, lobster, and the sweet corn on the cob of summer, I sat outside digesting my meal. While sitting in a chair on my patio, my cat, Storm, ran past me with a baby bird in her mouth, still wiggling with life.
I yelled at Storm and she dropped it, knowing she was a bad cat because this summer Storm has become the mortal enemy of birds in my neighborhood, and I’m sad to say this wasn’t the first bird she brought home. I’ve saved five of them, but only the guy upstairs knows how many didn’t make it to my house.
I picked up the baby bird, which was quite feisty and kept nipping at my fingers. My daughter and her beau were visiting from Hawaii, and he’s like a walking encyclopedia on just about everything, but not in an annoying way. He told me the baby bird was a jay and had not grown his flying feathers yet. He said if I put it back on the ground or perched it in a basket from a tree branch, which a wildlife Web site advised, it would become a meal for one of the other wild animals in the neighborhood.
So, I grabbed a big plastic storage container and filled it with grass clippings, a makeshift nest, and twigs. We covered it with a large window screen and I placed rocks on top of it. But then we realized if we left it outside all night those pesky raccoons that roam under the cover of darkness could easily break into the container. Storm is a housecat who I insist stays in at night, so leaving the container inside wasn’t an option either. I didn’t want her to think we were offering her a feast of bird.
We discussed what to do and I decided that if I put it in my bedroom I could lock Storm out and then see what the morning would bring. On the advice of Ethan, my daughter’s boyfriend, I planned to nurse the little guy for a week or so until his flying feathers came in, and then I could release him while the sound track of “Born Free” played in my head. Digging worms for his food wasn’t on my agenda for my summer vacation, but when life gives you a baby bird, you dig up worms.
He slept on top of a dresser near an open window in my bedroom, and for the most part he was very well behaved. That was, until morning broke and he heard all the other birds outside in my heavily wooded neighborhood. He started jumping and chirping all over the box. Since Jenna and Ethan had left in the middle of the night for their flight home, I put the container in their room and went back to bed.
Shortly after, I heard a loud chorus of blue jays in the trees in my backyard. And since I have a history with blue jays, I knew they were looking for their offspring. When I was 12 or so, I was riding my bike home from my grandparents’ and found a little blue jay flopping around in a patch of grass on the ground. Thinking I was Mother Teresa, I scooped it up and placed it in my bike basket to take it home and care for it.
Well, those adult blue jays descended from the tree branches above and attacked my head so bad I threw the bike down and ran all the way home. Thinking about that now, I realize that’s about the time my hair curled, probably from fear. So, just like Meryl Streep said in that movie, “The dingo’s got my baby!,” I can now proclaim, “Those blue jays frizzed my hair!”
I knew from their cackling outside that they were looking for their baby. There were loads of them squawking in the trees, which was not something they normally do around here. Fearing a home invasion, I took the baby bird in the container outside and laid it on its side under a hedgerow of privet bushes and he scooted out and scrambled through a pile of blackberry brambles. Soon, all was quiet with the jays. Since I have a great fear of them, I didn’t stay long enough to see if they rescued him. Besides, my hair stands on end on its own, I do not need blue jays to encourage it further.
As I write this, Storm lays cuddled on the softest blanket on my bed. A crow caws outside my window. I tell her, “He’s calling you for a duel, Storm.” She looks toward the open window and yawns, as if she’s bored by the whole bird thing, which is good because I can’t take it anymore. She is also now wearing a bright red collar with bells on it, so the birds can hear her coming.
And if next summer is anything like this summer, with our visitors being rude, arrogant, elitist, and downright stupid, it might be a good idea to release a swarm of blue jays on them. Not only will that keep them away, it will also help business at the local hair salons.
Janis Hewitt is a senior writer for The Star.