Monday, May 13, 2013

Scrub Jays on Mother's Day

My mom passed away eight years ago, so on Mother's Day, I send salutations to moms I knowrather than my own. But it's not that I forget her: as time passes, I only miss my mom more. This past Sunday, I had an afternoon radio spot scheduled for KKUP 91.5, chatting with DJ (and tireless supporter of independent musicians) Don Campau. Given the day, I was making sure to include a song, that's part tribute to both my mother and my grandmother ("Grandma Mission Blues" below) in the set list.
My morning's preparation, however, was interrupted by the sound of squawking outside the living room window. Peering into our side yard, I saw not a bird but a very interested cat— my neighbor's generally docile feline — crouching near the gardening table, twitching its tail. After running outside and yelling at the cat, I saw a frightened, just-fledged scrub jay hopping under the table. Of course, it was just as scared of the large humans trying to help it get away as it was of the cat. But, whether due to cat-inflicted injury (it had a little blood on the side of it's mouth) or lack of skill, it couldn't fly up and out of the yard.  I picked it up and it struggled out of my hands to perch on my finger and I attempted to get it in a tree but no-go. Meanwhile, the cat came around the side of the porch, waiting to take over. After a bit more kerfuffle, we got the bird into a well-ventilated crate and set to finding the nearest Wildlife Rescue Hospital, which turned out to be 20 miles away in Walnut Creek, adjacent to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum.
Scrub Jays — as are most corvids — are among the smartest animals on the planet,  possessing accurate memory and an ability to plan ahead for the future (!). As a kid, I used to feed the jays the 'crusts' of my Wonder Bread peanut butter sandwiches (not recommended) and they quickly learned to wait in the oak trees near a bird feeder each day at lunchtime.
After about 10 minutes in the car, I noticed our rescued jay looking more alert and peering out of the crate and around the car. A good sign. Hopefully, it recovers well and will remember as much how to stay clear of cats as the relative comfort of the interiors of VWs.
The staff at Lindsay Wildlife Hospital promptly whisked the jay through a door from which came the sounds of lots of other birds. As they took down our information and assigned our delivery a number (we can check on its status in a few days) a few other folks came in with shoeboxes and jars containing rescued creatures. The wildlife hospital  is set up to take in animals 7 days a week, starting at 9am, and they're keeping busy: during the first week of May, they took in nearly 250 critters.  Turns out Lindsay's facility is one of the oldest and largest wildlife rehabilitation centers in the country, and largely dependent on volunteers and donations. Hopefully, I won't have to take any more animals there this year, but I'm definitely happy to give them some support. Find out more at

No comments: