It’s a ratty old thing that really needs to be replaced but like an old friend, it would be missed. From the vantage point of my comfy overstuffed chair, I can look out at the deck, view the yard with three bird feeders and a suet cake holder, and see the lake beyond. We feed the birds throughout the year and enjoy watching them come and go from sunrise to sunset.
Suddenly, there was a familiar bang on the sliding glass door. I looked up and saw a Chickadee fall onto the snowy deck after crashing into the glass. It only flopped around for a moment before a Cooper’s Hawk swooped down, grabbed the stunned bird and flew off with it. It was just a few feet away and within seconds the hunter and the hunted completed a natural cycle of life.
I felt sorry for my favorite songbird.
Chickadees have eaten sunflower seeds from my hand and have landed on my shoulder or hat while refilling the feeders. By nature’s design, the Cooper’s Hawk survives by preying on small birds and rodents. Still, it’s hard not to sympathize with the little guy, the underdog.
This scene has repeated itself on multiple occasions. The hawk is keenly aware of the concentration of birds around our yard. Like a jet fighter, it swoops in hoping to nab an unsuspecting victim munching sunflower seeds. In their attempt to survive the attack, the alarmed birds scatter in all directions. Unfortunately, some collide with a window and become an easy meal for the hawk.
Last week, while sitting in my favorite chair and I heard the familiar thump. At the base of the sliding glass door I spotted the victim. The poor guy hit the glass and did a nose dive onto the snow-covered deck. If not so tragic, it was almost a comical sight. The only things protruding from the snow were two little feet and a tail. He had gone in head first.
Our cat came running to investigate the noise. She was chattering and meowing as she usually does when a bird hits the window.
It was then that I noticed the bird’s feet moving and its tail twitching. Was it alive?
I pulled on my snow boots and grabbed my stocking cap. Forgetting my coat, out the door I dashed on a rescue mission. On the deck, I carefully dug into the snow and retrieved a male Goldfinch. He made no attempt to escape as my bare hands were cupped around him, shielding him from the cold wind.
We took refuge in the warmth of my garage workshop. I feared it might come to and fly out of my hands into the garage rafters.
I put the little guy in a worm bait box which was partially filled with dried moss since I don’t have a bird cage. I found a leftover piece of metal screening and cut a piece to fit over the open top. With eyes wide open, the bird sat quietly on the moss.
I left him there to hopefully regain his equilibrium. If it hadn’t broken any bones, it might recover.
An hour later I returned to the garage. Thankfully, he was fluttering around inside the container. I carried the makeshift cage outside and removed the screen top.
The Goldfinch sat in the bottom looking at me. I put my finger in front of him and he hopped on like it was his perch. Without any goodbyes, he flew from my finger to the top of a nearby oak tree. My friend was free again, free to go wherever he liked with a new lease on life.
Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633