My Morning, or How to Rescue Baby Birds by Really, Really Trying

Some people are morning people. Me, not so much. Mostly because mornings have a habit of bringing you Really Weird Things.

Since I live on a farm, very much in the country, I never quite know what to expect. In the past, mornings have brought me stray greyhounds, a porcupine in the barn (one really memorable morning, I found said greyhound sporting more than 300 porcupine quills.), injured horses, and one morning, a baby possum on the porch (which my black Lab had brought for me. He was quite pleased with his gift. He’s also brought me live armadillos. Those, I made him put back.).

Today’s escapade was like that.

baby birdsFor the past few weeks, a pair of blue jays have been jealously defending their nest against all comers. The nest is very high – about 60 feet up the tallest tree in the yard – but boy, do they think the cats are out to get them! I haven’t the heart to try to explain to them that my cats are lazy, and they suck at climbing trees. But I’ve been dreading the day when the babies try to leave the nest. Because the cats will be interested in them then.

This morning, when I went out for my walk, I was greeted by two tiny balls of blue-gray fluff with beady black eyes and wide-open mouths. Somehow, in the night, two babies, not quite fledglings, had fallen out of the nest. They were sitting in the grass in the middle of the yard, waiting for me, apparently.

They stared at me. I stared at them.

First, the fact that they survived the fall was a total miracle. Second, the fact that my two barn cats hadn’t found them yet was a miracle. Third, the fact that I’d chosen to go for a walk this morning, instead of letting the other seven barn cats out of their crates first, was a miracle. (YES, my barn cats sleep in large crates at night, with litter boxes, food, water, and blankets to sleep on. Sue me.)

I looked away. Looked back. Still there. Staring at me. Mouths open. Eyes beady. Waiting.

baby birds basketA normal person would say, okay. Nest in tree. Replace birds in nest. Easy. But remember, the nest is about 60′ in the air.  I cannot climb that high. If my life depended on it, I’d be dead. So . . . I had to go to plan B.

The most important thing was to get them off the ground. So I cam up with the bright idea of getting a basket, using hay to make a nest in it, and putting the babies in that.

They stared at me. I stared back.

Then, I got a dog leash and secured it to the basket handles. I had a 30-foot lunge line (used for exercising and training horses), and the idea was to toss one end over a branch, secure it to the basket, and then hoist the basket in the air.

Okay. If you’ve never tried to do this, don’t. Hollywood makes it look easy. Hollywood also makes it look easy to drive 200mph in a stolen Lamborghini, and knock someone out with one punch. Hollywood sucks.

I would need a ladder.

I HATE LADDERS. They are all sentient beings, with one goal and one goal only:  to kill as many humans as possible. But I leaned it against the tree and climbed as I high as I could make myself, which was enough to be able to toss the end of the line over the branch and feed it over, until I could reach the end from the ground. Then, I was able to clip the line to the dog leash, hoist the basket in the air, and secure the other end to one of my vintage lawn chairs.

I do not recommend this if you are tired, hot, out of shape, and also fending off 9 curious cats, one of whom REALLY wants to play with the lunge line (but could care less about what’s in the basket). Seriously, though, you can return baby birds to the nest; birds don’t have a good sense of smell. And apparently, even if only one or two babies fall out of the nest, if you fix a new one for them in the vicinity of the real nest, the mothers may take care of both nests. Who knew?

So that’s my morning. Sadly, that’s not even a really odd morning. Par for the course, really. Right up there with watching a skunk eat the dead bugs under the yard light.

I’m happy to report that this evening, the babies are fat, healthy, sleeping, and Mum and Dad Blue Jay are taking care of them. I’m hoping they are able to continue until they are ready to leave the makeshift nest.


Here are some good guidelines for dealing with baby birds that have fallen out of nests: