October 29, 2016
A Volunteer Tale
A couple weeks ago a "shout out" was sent to volunteer drivers about a Golden-crowned Kinglet requiring help; needing a drive up to Toronto Wildlife. Turns out the bird was picked up a couple blocks from our home. It was late in the day, TWC would be closing for the day in less than 2 hours. And I was at work.
On occasion in the past, with similar situations like this, I offer myself as a "last resort" option if no one else calls in to help. I throw my suggestion that I could pick the animal up on my way home from work, keep it overnight, and bring it in first thing the next morning. That is providing the finder is willing to meet me after 10 pm. This has played out like that a few times in the last couple years. And in this occasion, it also went that way.
I turn down the overtime option at work and get myself on the road ASAP at quitting time. Somethings mean more to me than making a few extra dollars.
I call the finder when I am near their home and arrange for them to meet me outside with the bird.
I arrive and the person is standing there with a Xerox box. We chat for a moment about the bird, how they found it, and I could not help but bring up the size of the box for such a tiny little bird. Kinglets are about 3 to 4 inches in length, with a wing span about 6 inches in total and weigh no more than 8 grams max. A Xerox box's dimensions are 16 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches. I can't imagine how many Kinglets we could pack in such a box.
In our conversation, the finder told me she had not checked on the bird since she contained it some 6 hours earlier. I had considered checking it right then and there, ensuring it was still alive, but decided not to out there on a darkened side street. It was about 11 pm now. I was going to get it home, bring it inside, still contained of course, and only do this because it was going below the freezing temperature and that may not have been the best for an unwell bird to be stuck in. I knew a good dark quiet and comfortable place to keep the bird (and box) in overnight, and away from our cats Merry and Molly.
I was driving home and found it odd that there was not a sound of any sort coming from that box. No movement noises, no peeps. She had told me she put a heavy towel inside the box for the bird. I wondered if it was stuck inside it. I accelerate the truck and get us home quick.
Once inside, I open the box and have a peek. No bird to be seen. I remove the bath towel. No bird. WTF?
Angie woke up, knowing I was bringing this bird home, and asked how it was. I said "it's not there". We both agreed that I had better phone the finder and inform them of the situation. The bird had escaped the box, most likely through the open handles on the sides, and was somewhere within her condo.
I call the finder and did not expect the reaction I got from her. At first she was in denial and suggested it was loose in my truck or house, that I better double check. I assured her that was not the case. I never got the bird from her. Well she went overboard with her emotions and I spent the next 20+ minutes trying to calm her down.
She played out some of the worst case scenarios about what was going to happen to this bird loose in her apartment. Killing itself on her windows. The dog might eat it. Etc. She got very upset. She tries to be a good person in life and every time she does something good, it backfires on her. I started feeling like Dr. Phil with a patient. The more she went on, the more I got the vibe that she was terrified about this bird being loose in her place. Remember how small a Kinglet is? What could that bird do to her and her dog?
I don't think I ever really calmed her down but somehow ended the conversation. We were going in circles by this time, always starting the conversation over. And each time I found myself with less of a window to talk. I think I pretty much cut her off, saying to look for the bird and call either me or TWC in the morning. Then said "good night".
I did not hear from her the next morning. I informed TWC of what had happened and to not expect me and the bird. TWC heard nothing from the woman either.
5 pm rolls around. I'm at work. My cell phone goes off and it's a blocked number. I don't answer blocked numbers. I hit "reject" and the call goes right to my voice mail. Moments later I get notice of a voice mail so I check it. Lo and behold it's the woman and she found the bird. Now think about this. The bird has now been in her apartment for 24 hours or more without food or water. Who knows how long he had been outside on the ground before she found him. This is a very long time for a tiny unwell bird to be without any the necessities of life and care.
The woman said I could come get it any time, even if it was later that night after work.
This is now going into Friday evening. I couldn't help now, too many plans for the Saturday. I was also leery on having another encounter with the finder although her attitude was much more positive and she was rather proud of herself on finding him and properly containing him this time.
I quickly call TWC, let them know of the current situation and apologized that I would not be helping. They said they would call her and work something out to get the bird up there ASAP.
I did not hear anything else after this. I had been to the centre a few times since but with other things happening, the past and this bird were sort of forgotten. Well, that is until today, when I started keying this blog (Oct 28)...
I was in the centre picking up a Kinglet for release. The bird needed a driver to get him west and out of the city, somewhere along the shores of Lake Ontario, and back on his migratory path. I was waiting a couple minutes for the bird and the person I was working with at TWC on this other Kinglet situation was present. I asked her how things went the other week.
It turns out she was the one who drove down and picked up the Kinglet. Sadly the bird died in her car while on route to Toronto Wildlife. UGH! My heart sank. I always have the highest of hopes for the wildlife patients. I know many do not make it but didn't expect to hear this one died in her car. If only the bird made it in the first time around, would he still be alive today?
I had a moment, thinking about this little bird I tried to help, a bird I never met.
Now it was time to get to business helping another Golden-crowned Kinglet who was lucky enough to be getting his second chance at a wildlife.
I drove him down to a lake side park, through heavy traffic and some parking issues, but I got him back to where he needed to be. I felt something more with this Kinglet release for obvious reasons. As I walked along, looking for a release spot, I took notice to one particular tree. Such a beautiful tree with leaves of gold! Yes, this is the perfect spot.
Of course you can't tell a bird being released what to do or where to go. You just give them their freedom and they take that quite gladly. Some birds linger nearby, some fly as far away as possible, quickly finding a place to hide and gather their bearings.
This guy went right to that tree and pretty much allowed me into his world for a number of minutes. How happy he was to be free from the confines of that no-wax paper bag, never mind the rehab centre he spent some time in for X amount of days before. It was a beautiful Autumn morning, the sun was shining bright and the bird took it all in. He preened and chirped, then began to hop through the tree, snagging little insects, preening and chirping some more.
In this moment, I did not forget about the one who did not make it. I couldn't say "sorry" for what happened to him. But I could find comfort in knowing another of his kind did find freedom again.
Here are a few photos of the happy Kinglet. You can click on the images to enlarge them.
Toronto Wildlife does the absolute best they can to help every animal in need. People there go above and beyond expectations time and time again. The dedication from staff and volunteers is incredible. Bad things happen to animals 24/7 and what staff cannot get to, volunteers step in. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, but we never give up trying to help any of them.