We have a bird family that comes back to our porch light every year to build their nest. I think it is a sparrow family, but I’m not up on my local birds. My partner agreed that this would be our last year to “host” this family because it’s too risky to have these birds so nearby. For one thing, we can’t turn on the porch light when the nest is set up, which is a bit of an inconvenience that we have been able to live with for the past couple of years. Also, last year I recall a murder of crows making all sorts of noise when the sparrows’ eggs hatched and the fledglings were squirming hungrily in their nest, creating an even larger hunger in the scavenging crows who circled our house for days like death’s maitre de. Our porch is too small for even a smart crow to dart in and access the nest, but that didn’t stop them from hovering around the porch for hours at a time, hiding in the nearby pine tree, or lining up on the telephone wire, waiting for that one opportune moment. It was quite strategic of this sparrow family to choose our porch light as their nest, despite the aviary drama that they created around our house.
There did end up being one casualty last year. A baby bird fell from the nest. We discovered it when we came home one day. The crows were swarming around, so my guess was they did actually take a shot at the nest, bold creatures that they are, knowing that there weren’t any humans in the house. There is a reason the Tlingits and Haidas in Alaska worship the Raven, and call it the Trickster. It was so sad to see this little fledgling, dead on the ground, and I remember resenting my partner in that moment, swearing that we would never allow this nest to be built in our porch again. But we did.
This week, one of the parents of the nest flew into our house. I had left the door open for a few seconds because my partner and her daughter had just returned from a bike ride, so I had opened the door for them to let them in. I was recovering from some nasty food poisoning that landed me in the ER the night before. I had become so dehydrated, that I could no longer hold anything down, so I needed to get rehydrated intravenously. So, I was pretty out of it, both mentally and physically. When I looked out the window, my partner said, “I think a bird just flew into the house.”
I turned around, and sure enough the bird was flailing around, trapped, feeling stressed. Our cat, Crown Kitty, was squatting down on the floor, watching the bird with anticipation. I quickly started to open the windows of the house. My partner and her daughter were quickly getting off of their bikes and working their way into the house. I knew the back door was open, so I was hoping the bird would find its way to the kitchen where it would free itself. It did find its way into the kitchen, but Crown Kitty was quickly trailing it. By the time I arrived at the kitchen entry way, literally ten seconds later, the bird was dead. My guess is the bird hit the window, and became weak, and Crown Kitty batted it down from the air. A few feathers were already floating, and Crown Kitty had a firm grip of the bird’s entire body in her mouth. It wasn’t until I picked up Crown Kitty by the back of the neck that she was forced to let go of the bird. Of course, I still held out some hope that the bird was alive, but she wasn’t. A few seconds later, my partner’s daughter came in, and I told her to stay out of the kitchen.
“It’s dead. Crown Kitty got it.” I said tersely, annoyed, insensitively.
I got a dust pan and rolled the bird onto it, and tossed it into the trash outside, saying a quick chant, and bowing to it.
“May all beings be happy.” My heart ached.
A few minutes later, I quietly barked at my partner in a private moment, “This is exactly why I didn’t want to have that nest this year.”
It has been a sore spot between us. She had even called some ornithologists this year, and they said it was okay to allow the nest in our porch, and that it’s actually illegal to touch nests.
I remember being so annoyed when I heard that.
The truth is what lies beneath my irritation is my struggle to see these birds suffering, knowing that I really can’t do anything for them. Last year’s battle for survival against that murder of crows, for example, was difficult to witness. Here, this small sparrow family, was trying to keep their three fledglings alive, and dozens of crows were collectively planning an assault on these fledglings. It was fascinating to watch as a human. I would watch the crows maneuvering the landscape – some settling on the telephone wire, squawking to another pair across the street in the acacia tree, who in turn would squawk to the trio on my neighbor’s roof top. The fledglings would just screech for their parents who I knew were hiding somewhere nearby, waiting for that safe moment to fly into the nest. Meanwhile, people would be walking by with their dogs, driving by in their cars, walking their babies, clueless to this drama that was playing out all around them. We’re too busy with our own dramas, like food poisoning, and worried about being judged by colleagues for missing three days of work.
If I hadn’t been sick, I wouldn’t have been home at that time, and that bird would never have gotten into the house. Of course, we all know how dangerous the word “if” is. The cynical side of me says that although I was the one who opened the door, I didn’t invite the bird to fly into my house.
What happens when an intruder enters your home – an uninvited guest? Or rather, what happens when someone enters an element where it does not belong – an unnatural element – a bird in a house – a bacteria in a body. It is unwelcome, it does not belong there. There are consequences. In this case, a bird died. And the added consequences will be that because it was probably a parent bird, that the eggs will not be protected, and more birds – the offspring – will die. This is nature.
A wild bird doesn’t belong in a house; particularly in a house where a cat lives. Can we really blame a cat for following her instincts? Can we blame anyone for following their nature?
It took me four days to recover from that food poisoning. My body purged every ounce of those toxins out of my body until I was literally dehydrated. An unnatural element invading my body. Consequences.
Who said that life is going to be comfortable?
Hell, even the Buddha was rumored to have died of food poisoning. Trust me, I thought of that this week when I was hurling my guts out in agony, feeling more powerless than I have felt in a long time. There’s nothing like physical pain to level the human ego.
I guess you really never do know what’s on the other side of a door until you open it.