Daily Archives: September 17, 2010

In which my prayer revives a bird. Maybe.

I have really bad eyes.  Really bad.  I dream about winning the lottery (which we don’t play) and the first thing I would do is get lasik.  I have 20-300 vision in one eye, and 20-450 in the other.  Contacts correct my vision to nearly 20-20, and glasses correct my vision to… 20-25 or something like that.  My eyes, though, don’t like contacts, so I only wear them two or three days a week.

This is the bane of my birdwatching:  I can’t see.

Really, you MUST own one.

That’s an exaggeration, of course, but I think that it’s ironically humorous that I would really love a hobby that requires sharp eyesight.  On the rare times my hubby and I are able to go out birding together, he, with his Six Million Dollar Man robot vision, spots birds from afar, and starts describing them to me as I squint in the direction where he’s pointing, and furiously flip through my Sibley guide as I think, with a twinge of envy, “I can’t believe he can see that bird that well, from that far away.”  We make a good team, actually.

If I could balance my desire to wake up early to watch birds with my propensity to read books late into the night, things would be perfect:  I’d be able to wake up much earlier in order to accomplish everything I’d like to, early in the morning, having several hours in which to do so.  As it is, though, I typically have only a half-hour or so of quiet on the back patio with which to start my day.  Occasionally, I take out my Sibley guide and a pair of binoculars.  However, my primary purpose of this patio-time is to read my Bible and pray for a bit, before the chaos sets in.  My spirit is willing, but my flesh is easily distracted.  If I do take my bird stuff out with me, I invariably spend my whole time watching birds instead of spending time with my Father…  He created birds, with all their intricacy and unique qualities, and it’s not like I think He’s bothered by my compulsive birding, but I really do need that time — too brief as it is — to drink in some wisdom and feel His Spirit settle on mine.  So, I usually JUST SAY NO to birding in the early morning, at least official, equipped birding (contacts, binocs, guide).

Because of this, most mornings find just me in my glasses, with my coffee, Bible, and journal, outside.  I must, when a bird tempts me by a flash of yellow or an unrecognized warble, look up and try to find the source.  However, because of my bad eyes, this is usually some source of frustration, because I just can’t see sharply enough to actually identify anything, unless I see it on frequent occasions, or unless it swoops low on the stretch of lawn between the patio and the trees.  So, usually, in my devotion-cum-not-real-birding time, if I spot an interesting bird, it’s never well enough to officially ID the bird, and make a note in my book.  It’s more like, “This morning, I think I saw a…” which, really, if you’re a birder, is a very unsatisfactory state in which to be.

On several occasions in the last couple of weeks, I have thought I have seen a female or juvenile male Black-headed Grosbeak.  I could tell, well enough, that it had sparrowish markings on its back, that its beak was very finchy, its breast was orangey, and there was bright yellow under its wings.  However, that would put the bird quite out-of-range — I’ve only seen Black-headed Grosbeaks in the mountains of Colorado, and if it was a juvenile, that would mean that he was likely born here in the desert, which I thought very unlikely.  So, he just remained my mystery bird.

Until this morning.

I saw him fly from one tree to another, remarking to myself, “He has a LOT of yellow under his wings.  Oh, he’s swooping this way… closer…  OH!!”  I leaped to my feet, jumping aside as I watched my poor bird dive at a fast clip right into the window directly behind me.


He immediately fell to the concrete patio below, belly up.

Thus began a solid… five or ten minutes (I’m really not sure how much time passed) of me both observing the bird, feeling badly for doing things like saying to myself, “Oh, his bill is bicolored!  The lower half is even a bit rosy!  Should I get my camera?  Should I pick him up?”  I had visions of a shoebox with leaves and a soft cloth in it.  “Is he just stunned?  I can see him breathing.  He’s blinking his eyes.  Would picking up a bird who has just whumped into a window endanger his spine?  Whom would I call for bird rehabilitation?  Maricopa County something or other…”

All those questions were alternated with observances of his plumage and the like.  I even contemplated getting out a ruler, thinking, “I’ve never been this close to a live bird who might let me actually measure it!”

I told you I was a bird nerd.

Then, with a quick motion and a flutter of wings, he flipped to his feet.  I thought he might fly away, but he didn’t.  This gave me a number of minutes to observe the plumage on his back, again feeling half-badly as I did so.

His head, then, began to dip.  He sunk lower, though still on his feet, and rested his beak on the concrete patio.  His head tipped a little to the right.  He started gently heaving sighs.  “This does not look good,” I thought.

I decided to pray for him.  I even reached out my hand toward him, though I didn’t touch.  I just asked Jesus to have mercy on His little creature, and to give him enough strength to fly away and heal, somewhere safe.

Right about that time, my husband poked his head out the door to tell me that our daughter Fiala was crying, and had a raging fever.

The bird startled, fluttered, and flew low across the yard, stopping in a low bush, behind a Little Tykes playhouse given to us by a friend.

I went inside to tend to my darling little girl who is, indeed, very ill.  (She’s napping right now.)

At lunch, I had a chance to pull out the Sibley guide.  Sure enough.  Black-headed Grosbeak.  First-winter male.  Bright lemon yellow under his wings and on the vent, no streaking on the sides or flanks… I could describe him further, but lemme tell you, I have virtually no doubt — the only odd thing was that the lower mandible did have just a hint of rosiness to it, like a female.  Still.

Looked very much like this guy:

Thanks to the Pacific NW Birder blog for this pic!

Martin and I checked the spot to where the bird had flown, later in the morning, and there was no sign of him.  I hope he’s well.

So, I don’t know if my prayer revived him, or that it was Martin startling him when he poked his head out the door — a true “flight” response, or what.  But, I’m happy that he didn’t die.  🙂

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