Fear of Flying

There are times when you have to decide, sometimes rather quickly, if you want to be the observer, the uninvolved documentarian of life around you. Or are you going to jump in to try to change the inevitable. And sometimes, it is not a choice at all. It is inherent. A part of your DNA.

You already know what is true about me. I come from a long line of lifeguards. Literally and figuratively. My Dad lied about his age to become the youngest, and best, lifeguard in Mantoloking, NJ. Or just ask a soldier my Mom rescued when he was a youngster in dire straights on our backyard Tarzan swing.

I have tried to make this blog informative, interesting, entertaining, positive and most of all, true – with a generous dose of ‘tongue in cheek’ humor. It has not always been fun and/or easy.

Life has a way of grabbing you by the heartstrings. We do not take lightly our stewardship of life on the marsh. The debate is ongoing regarding intervention to help nature along or interference with the natural order.

OK. Enough philosophy, back to the owlets!

Nancy texts Dale to let her know where I am…

I get a text from Nancy early Wednesday morning, March 26th. MiniMe is by the sea wall across from The ISLAND. Just sitting on the freshly mowed lawn.

The sun feels so good…

Why is MiniMe sitting on the lawn across from The ISLAND? Guess Hoo?

My Big Sibling is on The ISLAND!
Does the phrase “sitting duck” apply here?

MiniMe sits here, close to the sea wall, in the sun, seemingly without a care in the world about anything that is going on around it. ALL DAY. I repeat: ALL DAY.

We worry that it is going to make a move to go back to The ISLAND. The tide is going out. We set up a neighborhood  schedule of watch and see.

Waiting for the tide to go out?
Waiting for the tide to go out?
Am I getting tan yet?
Am I getting tan yet?
Maybe I should reconsider the cedar tree…

The tide goes out. Mm does not make a move. The tide starts coming in. Still just sitting in the sun. I am on watch now and am talking on the phone with my sister. I see a parent in one of the pine trees on The ISLAND.

My parent is watching over me…

And then…Why is there always a “and then...” with MiniMe?

Uh oh, I must have fallen asleep and missed the tide

I’m guessing MiniMe is getting hungry and there wasn’t any delivery or wait staff service on the lawn. Please, please MiniMe, do not try to go to The ISLAND! Pleeeease…..!!!!

MiniMe jumps!

Where is the ground?
Where is the ground?

I hang up on my sister, drop phone, glasses, take off jacket and then hold my breath to see if it can make it. Use your wings MiniMe!

I am trying! Really trying....
I am trying! Really trying….

I put down the camera. There is a long bamboo pole floating in the water near the floating dock. This is a very small floating dock, if I jump on it, it will make a wave that will wash over MiniMe. I am on my belly and still cannot reach the pole from the sea wall. The tide is moving fast now. MiniMe is trying to walk on water.

I run over to my neighbor’s boat shed and grab a net. Not for Mm but for the pole. I snag the bamboo pole, then gently climb  on the floating dock and throw the pole next to her. Grab on MiniMe!

Bamboo pole
Bamboo pole
I do!!!
I do!!!

Now what?

The creek is about three feet wide. It is mid tide so moving fast. MiniMe is grasping the pole with both talons. I want it to go to The ISLAND at this point. If it will just move along the pole away from me, it will reach thicker spartina grass and could make it to high ground, especially if it will use its wings! And it needs to go NOW. The situation is only going to get worse with the rising tide.

MiniMe and I discuss. Please MiniMe, go to The ISLAND. Your Big Sib is there. Your parents are there. You can do it. 

I watch MiniMe trying to collect itself. It makes small moves towards The ISLAND. I am thinking about what to do. I am by myself. It is a beautiful sunny day. I am a good swimmer. I know the marsh. I do not have gloves with me. Could I jump in and get a firm enough footing in the pluff mud and manage to grab MiniMe in my bare hands? It weighs nothing but has huge talons, a sharp, strong beak and a wing span now of almost four feet. Pluff mud is not quick sand. But you can sink in pretty deep. Could I control the owl? In the water? In the pluff mud? Without grievously hurting it or myself?

Please MiniMe. Go to The ISLAND. Please, please, please.

She does not go to The ISLAND.

I have changed my mind about going to The ISLAND
I have changed my mind about going to The ISLAND

Sometime during this internal debate I am having with myself, I pick up my camera. I take the shot above and the one at the top of the page. Here again:

Swan dive
Swan dive

OMG! What am I going to do?

Swim MiniMe! Swim!

Owls can’t swim. I run to my neighbor’s boat shed, again, this time for a paddle. If I can just get it to the same neighbor’s boat ramp. MiniMe tries to grab on with its beak, talons. It is sinking. The tide is moving it in the right direction. Don’t give up MiniMe!

I use the paddle to hold it up and carefully push Mm to the boat ramp. I do not want to break a wing or damage tail feathers. It is not moving. I run down the ramp and gather it up in my arms, tucking in the wings. It is breathing… barely.

My neighbor comes out and he helps me rinse MiniMe off with fresh water. I don’t think it will make it but it swallowed salt water and I am thinking that a quick rinse might help – if it survives at all.

I don't know if I can make it...again...
I don’t know if I can make it…ever…again…

This is bad. Really, really bad. Of all the things that have happened to MiniMe, this is the worst. By far.

I take one photo then run home to get towels and the box. I don’t even think about the red gloves. I run back. Still breathing, barely standing. I wrap it up in a towel and hold it like the baby it still is.

Yes, I am in tears. I have no idea of what to do. I cradle it to my chest. I talk in low tones, trying to achieve a calm voice, trying to convey that I care. That I will it to live. I do not put it in the box. I carry MiniMe back to my house and find the warmest, sunniest spot I can. We sit. I hold it dear. I think it will die in my arms.

Just when I am about to give up, I feel a slight wriggle. MiniMe is coming back! Fighting for life. I place it gently in the box, in the sun, and cover it like the Center for Birds of Prey advised. I retrieve my camera and assorted paraphernalia that my wonderful neighbor, Nancy, has already collected for me.

Warmest, best spot
Warmest, best spot
Don't think I can make it
Don’t think I can make it

It is touch and go for Mm. When Scott gets home, he puts up the ladder to the nest tree.

Ladder goes back up to the nest tree
Ladder goes back up to the nest tree

We don’t know what is best for MiniMe. She has touched our hearts and we are pulling mightily for it. Scott lobbies hard that the only chance it has is for MiniMe to reconnect with the parents. Me? I am searching how late Pet Smart will be open so I can buy frozen baby mice. Once again reason prevails. 

I am very, very weary...
I am very, very weary…

As gently as we can, we place MiniMe once again in the nest tree.

And I stay here almost all night
And I stay here almost all night

Where, oh where, will MiniMe be in the morning?

One thought on “Fear of Flying”

  1. Dale what heart stopping doings. You write so beautifully about your feelings and the care you all are taking to do the best you can for this avian foster.

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