First Steps

I witnessed a little magic yesterday. No, more than that, I played a central role in a little magic yesterday.

Okay, backtrack a little. Several weeks ago, when the weather started to warm up at last, I put the bird bath out and filled it. The next day, the Robins family showed up – Mom and Pops – and started building a nest on top of the motion light over the garage man-door.

Cue the soft music, curtains flapping in the breeze, rockets shooting for space, Yellowstone National Park geysers – all the usual cliches – and the next thing we know there are three little chirpers in the nest, necks stretched long, looking for Mommy and the next feeding.

So yesterday I was sitting out on the back patio, doing a little writing at the patio table when I noticed that Rusty was alerting on something by the back fence. I went to have a look and there, on the ground, was a chick. I tried to call Rusty off (he’s so eager), but – well – he has his own mind and he was really quite curious about this little creature. Unfortunately, his excitement caused the terrified chick to run through the slats in the fence and he wound up sitting, terrified, against a retaining wall in the back alley.

Well, with the pile of tiny feathers we found in the back yard on Monday still very much in mind, I got really worried at this development. The back alley is no place for a little Robin chick just trying out his legs – especially a frightened one, cowering up against a retaining wall. There were cars and trucks coming and going, animals of all kinds, and some mighty unfriendly birds too – there are magpies here, and big, ugly crows.

But what could I do? And what should I do? Should I leave the chick alone? Should I let nature decide the little guy’s fate – like it did his sibling? I’d heard somewhere – or read, I forget which – that if you touch a wild junior its parents will abandon it. So what to do? Leave it to the magpies, or get it back in the yard where it would at least have a fighting chance?

I thought of the pile of feathers and made up my mind. I grabbed a big snow shovel and went out into the back alley. There, I carefully scooped the little guy up and tried very slowly to carry it three feet to the gate into the back yard. Unfortunately, he panicked and started flapping his wings, trying to get away. Even so, I did not waver.

I used the shovel as gently as I could to make sure the little guy got into the yard, and that was when Mom and Pops attacked. They swooped and squawked, squawked and swooped. Holding my hands and the snow shovel high against the two irate dive-bombers I ran for the yard myself, then, running right past the dazed little chick who watched in some kind of amazement. I ran and sat back down at the patio table and did my best to resume my work, satisfied, despite all the parental angst, that I had done the right thing. The little guy was at the back of the yard, but inside the fence, so he was as safe as any baby can be in the big ol’ scary world of predators and prey.

After half an hour I turned around and saw that the chick had moved up in the yard. He had climbed some small steps and was sitting there, watching me. I took some photos as he figured out what he wanted to do.

He looked left and right, then started walking.



The riser was no match for Junior…


…and after only two tries he was looking around for a perchin’ place.

He found one, and spent the entire afternoon and evening yesterday watching the world go by.

Then this morning he had moved to this little perch under the patio table…

…where his Mom was still bringing him Fritos.


Anyway, I’m quite confident that I did the right thing getting him out of the alley. This family comes back every year, so maybe next year I’ll be able to help this little guy with his lady wife.


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