My youngest son and I rolled into our driveway after a weekend in upstate New York, impatient to unload the car and be on our respective ways: he to a graduation party, and me to a dinner of leftovers and a glass or two of chilled pinot grigio. But as usual, the universe had other plans.
John stepped out of the car, looked down at his feet and grimaced. “Mom,” he said, “there’s a bird in the driveway and I think it’s hurt.” As I got out to look, the fledging robin tried to fly and failed, then scooted under the tires of my son’s car. Fearful of running over him, John used a hockey stick to coax him out while I gently nudged him into a cardboard box. Now what? The bird’s mother was nowhere in sight, and our intervention had probably rendered it an orphan anyway. Left on its own, it would surely be at the mercy of a squirrel or a blue jay.
Our initial instinct was to get some water and birdseed, but I thought I should do a little research before we tried to nurse the bird back to health. And sure enough, everything I read suggested that the best way to save an injured bird is to bring it to the experts. In my area, that would be the Raptor Trust, in Millington, NJ, a rehabilitation center for injured and orphaned birds that includes a state-of-the-art hospital.
I could think of a number of reasons not to take this bird there, however:
1) The Raptor Trust is 30 minutes from my house.
2) I had just driven three hours.
3) I was hungry, and in great need of a glass of wine.
4) I had a mountain of laundry and a suitcase to unpack.
5) The bird would likely die anyway.
In the end, there was only one reason to get back in the car:
1) See photo
On the way there, I toyed with the idea of stopping off at some wooded area and just leaving the bird there, but knew I’d never have the heart to do it. Instead, I sat back and enjoyed the ride, keeping one ear alert to the cheeping and scratching sounds coming from the cardboard box on the floor.
When I got there, I learned the bird was stressed and bit stunned, but unhurt. He would be fostered by the volunteers at the Trust, and live out his birdie life in a quiet, wooded enclave far from cats and squirrels.
As I walked the path back to my car, I remembered an Emily Dickinson poem I’d loved as a teenager:
If I can stop one heart from breaking
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again
I shall not live in vain.
I left there thinking about the value of an hour vs. the value of a life. And how there was really no contest.
♥ ♥ ♥
Please consider a donation to The Raptor Trust to support the important work they do for area wildlife.