June 6th, 2005

dandelion

GROUNDED

Liz: Go pick up your rooms, there's not that much and it won't take you long.
Martin & Karin: *much grumbling, whining, moping, dragging of feet*
Liz: *from the other room, yells* Okay, pick up everything that starts with P!
Martin & Karin: *perk right up, begin rushing around muttering to themselves* P, P, pens! P...pokemon!
Liz: *breathes a sigh of relief*
Martin & Karin: P...P...pärlor! pictures...P, P...
Liz: *comes in playroom* ...paper! people!
Martin: *sternly* WE'RE doing it, Mama.
Liz: *leaves*

*pause*

Martin: Okay, we're done.
Liz: *comes back in* um, no. You forgot the most important P thing to pick up.
Karin: What?
Liz: PLAYTHINGS!
Martin & Karin: *in unison* m-o-o-o-o-o-mmmm!

***

We've had a baby, or rather, teenage, magpie in the backyard for the past 2 days. Yesterday, I noticed him (her? it?) sitting on the deck looking a little ruffled, and when I went to the window, he didn't fly away, just turned his head and looked at me. "Oh, dear," I thought, "sick bird." He just wasn't acting healthy, and I was a bit worried that we were going to be following in Sheryl's footsteps soon.

Later, he moved off the deck, and slowly made his way across the yard to the playhouse, where he hung out the rest of the afternoon and evening, camped out beneath the stonecrop. Anders mowed the lawn in the early dusk, while we watched Return of the Jedi, and came in when he was finished to excitedly tell me that the magpie had freaked him out completely. While he was mowing near the playhouse, the bird zipped out in front of him and danced back and forth, as if saying "you want a piece of me??" Anders tried to back up and go around him, but the bird kept getting in his way, chirping and flapping, but never leaving the ground.

I did some magpie research on the internet, which is how I discovered that he was probably an immature bird. Apparently, they can get blown out of their nests, or while learning to fly, get stranded, quite often. And today, I guessed that was definitely the case, because when I went out to put a shallow pan of water near him, I got swooped and screamed at by 2 adult birds, who were very understandably upset that I was anywhere near their young one. He had very short tail feathers, and didn't seem to be making any effort whatsoever to go anywhere or do anything, just cuddling his head under his wing and occasionally falling over on his side to scratch with 1 foot at an itch. A little while after I left the water, Martin saw through the window that he was SITTING IN IT! Stupid bird. It's been damn cold today, and I figured sitting in cold water was a bad idea, for a bird that had to be getting weaker with no food, so I went out and tipped him out of it. He opened his beak and screeched a bit, but wasn't aggressive and didn't even seem particularly alarmed at having me looming over him.

I went back inside and did more research to find out what magpies eat. A couple of sites, while talking about all kinds of things that I couldn't provide, mentioned grated cheese, which I did have, so I prepared another shallow pan and took it out, setting it down next to him. A while later, we saw the adult birds swooping down and snarfing up the cheese, but neither of them seemed interested in providing any sustenance for their offspring and they took off the second we got near the window. We kept an eye on him all day, and I got progressively more worried at his tendency to fall over and lie still, all huddled up. I had read that when rescuing a magpie, it was best to try and put them in a padded box using a towel (and gloves) to lift them, as it is important to keep them warm, and to try and return them to their nest, if possible. We couldn't figure out where the nest was, but we dutifully prepared a box and headed out with a towel. I managed to slide the towel around him, and lift him into the box but he came abruptly to life and leaped out again, squawking at me. Mama and Papa Magpie came screaming and zooming over, settling on the edge of the garage roof to yell their heads off. "I'm just trying to help!" I said to them. "He's going to starve! You're no help! Feed the poor thing!" After a couple more attempts and repeats of the in-and-out leaping, I gave up, and left the box and the 2 pans as near him as possible. He sat there for another hour, and apparently fell back asleep.

When I went out at 8 p.m. to water the garden, he was gone. Not on the deck. Not behind the garage. Not underneath the stonecrop. And yes, I checked to make sure he wasn't holed up IN the playhouse, enjoying a roof over his head and playing with the bocce balls.

I'm glad, although I hope neither of the neighboring farmcats got him. I was feeling awfully helpless. Hopefully, he figured out the flying thing and made it home, instead of falling into the overgrown ditch where I can't see him.