Yesterday Junior Pigeon was hopping around on my balcony (including hopping onto the wrought iron bench and into the potted rose bush), watching the other pigeons here in the corner of my building’s courtyard, and so wanting to fly. He preened nervously and stretched first one wing and then the other. I marveled at how baby pin feathers had turned into strong gray flight feathers.
This morning I found him peering down from the roof of the building across the courtyard.
He’s a more relaxed bird today, easily flying from building to building and back to my balcony to perch on the bench and preen at length. He’s a bird who can fly. Even with silly strands of yellow baby down strands still remaining on his head, like an absurd crown.
This morning I saw the fledgling pigeon on my balcony take one of its first flights. Junior Pigeon was standing on the wrought iron bench, making squeaky feed-me noises, while Papa Pigeon walked around on the balcony floor. Junior upped and fluttered down off the bench to Papa. It wasn’t a great flight, but it wasn’t falling like a feathered rock either….
Junior can fly upward too, from the balcony floor to the wrought iron bench to the balcony railing. A balcony with a bench and a railing may be a perfect pigeon playground to give Junior little flights less drastic than falling out of a nest on the edge of a cliff!
Now (Wednesday morning) Junior is perched on the railing, watching Papa fly from the balcony to the roof of the other building and back again and a few other pigeons flying around. Papa is making encouraging cooing noises. Junior is restless, scooting back and forth on the balcony rail, doing some quick anxious preening, looking all around. Quivering with anxiety. Junior so wants to be a flying pigeon like Papa. He’s just not sure he knows how.
Like every human student pilot, Junior won’t really know he can solo until the right time comes and, with encouragement from an attentive expert, he does.
Here is the baby shrike that goes to work with the wildlife rehabilitator so that she can feed him every few hours. What a serious-looking little character!
Prayed in church today:
Oh merciful Creator, our waters are bleeding through the work of our hands and our consumptive appetites. We are mindful of the infinite complexity of your world and the limits of our knowledge and skill. Send your Spirit of healing, wisdom, and comfort upon those who are affected by this tragedy and those who seek to make right this awful wrong. May we, remembering the account that we must one day give, be strengthened to be more faithful stewards of your bounty.
A friend of mine happens to work in the same office as a wildlife rehabilitator. Through that channel, I’m told that wild bird fledgings peak around Father’s day. Well, the half-grown pigeon on my balcony certainly seems to be on the verge of it. And yesterday the last of three baby robins in a nest in a tree outside the West door of the library where I work made it out of the nest. My department had been watching the nest for days. We were worried by the report of a hawk hanging around. We had a lot of sympathy for the overworked parents bringing bugs to three increasingly demanding beaky little maws! It turns out that robin parents sit in a branch on the same tree or another tree and sweetly chirp to persuade a chick to take the plunge. Pigeon parents – judging by the example on my balcony – coo to the near-fledglings to encourage them to come and get food and finally take flight.
This time of year it’s easy to see that parenting is in the warp and woof of life. So, as a matter of fact, is surrogate parenting. The wildlife rehabilitator has been watching a wren in her back yard for years. This female wren annually lays eggs in a neat little nest. By the time the eggs hatch she lines up a second boyfriend, so the chicks have three adults feeding and fending for them.
The rehabilitator brings cheeping shoeboxes to work because chicks need feeding every three hours. Her colleagues take a lively interest in the contents of the shoebox. Presently the shoebox contains a baby shrike. Shrikes are technically songbirds – not that they act like it: they are carnivores. So what do you feed a baby shrike? It turns out that you can buy minced mouse from pet food suppliers (!) I visualize the rehabilitator carefully dropping bits of mouse meat into the baby birdy’s eager little beak. And the many other rehabilitators, women and men, boys and girls, being surrogate parents for a wildly different species: tending baby birds (and other creatures) this time of year in order to get the little things to the point where they can be grown-up birds that fly away. Happy Father’s Day to all of them!
Here is the baby pigeon on my balcony now. It’s funny how this creature’s adult plumage is coming in: from back to front. The back end now looks more or less like a fine-feathered gray pigeon but the front end is all pinfeathers and baby-chick down.
So here is the pigeon nest in the potted dragon tree on my balcony now. Baby pigeons not only start out ugly-looking, they stay that way. I had baby chickens when I was little, and they are way cuter, and more precocious. Baby chickens scurry around almost from the beginning. Pigeon chicks are late bloomers. They stay in the nest for a long time being fed and watched over. This parent pigeon did not trust the big staring eye of the camera being pointed at them!
Well, here’s what’s happened in the potted dragon tree plant on my balcony. Baby pigeons bring to mind the old saying, “So ugly only a mother could love it.”
Sebastian Junger made “perfect storm” famous in his book with that title. He derived it from a conversation with a meteorologist. Essentially it doesn’t mean a purebred colossal storm. It means a conjunction of meteorological events that add up to something uncommonly bad. By extension, it can be a conjunction of meteorological and other events (or it can depart from the meteorological and take off into the metaphorical.)
Well, here’s one that we can hope and pray we don’t see. The notorious oil spill is still bleeding like a cut artery in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. What happens if a hurricane comes along? NPR did a segment on this, and the prospects are awful. By darkening the water, and causing the water to heat under the sun, the oil might make a hurricane more severe. Or a hurricane might drive the oil much deeper into the salt marshes than it would have gone on its own. Or shove the oil at Florida.
It’s beside the point to say this is an impossibly unlikely scenario. By the reckoning of BP, the oil industry in general, and the Federal MMS agency that was way too cozy with the industry, the spill itself was impossible!
Happily, we now have the normal complement of two (2) small creamy white eggs in the pigeon nest in the dragon tree pot on my balcony. The male pigeon is taking his turns brooding the eggs. He’s more skittish, which is how I can count eggs. I go onto the balcony and start watering plants and he flits away to the roof. At any rate, everybody is getting watered, including the dragon tree. And the pigeons. Yesterday my friend Jan said, “Have you put out a water dish for them?” Jan once had House Wrens nesting in a fern on her porch and she watered the fern with an eye dropper to make sure the eggs didn’t get wet. And our priest in her Sunday homily lifted up the significance of hospitality. So this morning I put out pot saucer and filled it with water for the pigeons.