Poor little thing...
So yesterday afternoon we had just returned from a trip to the mall where my two little ones always have a great time in the playhouse and playing their favorite games in the arcade. Back here at the house I asked the girls if they wanted to help me feed and water the finches in the big bird cage. They responded with the kind of enthusiasm that only little kids can show.
We trooped in line around the back of the house to the large green bamboo gate of the big bird cage. I let them go in first, holding one hand high to keep any birds from flying out the door. As I closed and latched the door I told them that a batch of baby finches had just left their nest for the first time a few days before.
“Daddy, there’s a bird in the water,” the 8 year old announced uncertainly.
‘Oh no!’ I thought, ‘my first casualty.’
There, floating beak down in the water was a tiny hatchling, its wings spread wide. Both my girls were hovering over the pitiful little thing.
“Daddy, what happened to it? Is it dead?”
“Yeah, it drowned. It must have fallen in.”
“Can I see it? What did you do with it?”
I had deftly scooped up the tiny body and hid its damp feathered carcass inside my cupped palm. I didn’t want them looking at the dead bird and perhaps getting upset; although, they didn’t seem the least bit affected. I know I sure was though. I felt horrible, feeling responsible.
For the last couple days I had been watching two new hatchlings try out their wings. It’s surprising how quickly they learn to expertly flit about the cage. I imagined how the little thing must have died; it must have landed in the large watering bowl by mistake and then struggled in there for who-knows-how-long before finally expiring.
I told Divine later, “Maybe I should take the deep bowl out of there until the little ones are better at flying, and just use a shallow dish to keep them watered; ya know?”
I continued to conceal the drowned fledgling in my hand for the five or ten minutes we stayed in the cage.
“What are you going to do with it Daddy?” my 5 year old asked me.
“I’ll bury it in the garden.”
They wanted to watch me do it, but I just wanted to get it done so they wouldn’t have to dwell on its death. Thing is, I think I was the one all screwed up over it and doing all the dwelling. With the girls following me and hovering near I placed the tiny feathered corpse at the bottom of my current compost pit along the south interior wall. In no time both girls were happily running around the yard playing tag with Divine’s girls, the dead bird no longer a thing of interest.
As for me, I can’t keep it out of my mind; I still have the image of it floating forlornly there in the water.
It turns out that the dead little bird is not one of the two fledglings I’ve been watching all week. The one that drowned was a brand new hatchling that had just dropped out of one of the nests and right into the bowl of water. It was just bad luck. Poor little thing…