Monday, August 1, 2011

It's all about Bob

Things have been a little crazy for the past few days. On Friday, what was supposed to be a regular gateway to the weekend kind of day did not go the way my mind thought it should. Usually, when I get up and let Eowyn out for her morning digestive ritual Tiger-Cato comes running up and wants to come inside for breakfast. No Cato. Button and Mac were here and I saw Button running around the corner of the house. I thought maybe he was going after a bird so I followed. Nope, he was standing under a tree and looking up at my very untalented cat! For the second time that week he was stuck up a tree. It's gotten so bad that Richard has just left his giant extending ladder with us. How embarrassing. I spent a few minutes calling him and he mewed back sorrowfully but would make no attempt to try and climb down. (In the back of my mind thoughts ran to leaving him up there until he came down on his own. After all, "you never see cat bones in a tree.")

I woke the boys for a regular mowing job. Before we left we set the ladder up against the tree in case Tiger-Cato wanted to have a go by himself. It was supposed to be super hot (again), I reasoned if we got to the job by 8:30 it wouldn't be so bad and we'd be done by 10. We started out and things were fine until we realized we needed to lower the mower. Even with some lubricating oil, those levers can be sticky. As I was trying to do the left front lever my arm bumped against the hot exhaust and I felt my skin sizzle. Within half an hour it looked like this

Lawn mower burn on wrist

Brilliant, eh? Then, with about a third of the yard to go the mower conked out. No amount of fiddling would start it. I checked the oil and it was very low. Now I know a lack of oil won't make an engine not start, but it certainly will kill one that runs for a while. I left the boys and went to our local hardware store Dual Supply to get some. I had no idea how much oil to put in a mower and put in too much. The mower still wasn't starting. Luckily, the woman we were mowing for said we could use her mower. Good deal! Mowing commenced until four or five passes from the end and it quit as well. Things were not going well and it was unbearably hot. I apologized and told her we'd get our mower running again and come back and do it Monday at the latest.

We get home and see our cat is still in the tree (it is a different tree each time he gets stuck, in case you were wondering). The peeps are getting picked up by their dad for the weekend any minute, so the boys head off to the showers. Their dad pulls up and he, Erin, and I look at Tiger-Cato in the tree, look at the lawnmower (which has a very clogged air filter from us tipping it up and cleaning out the grass clumps), and check out the chickens. The boys are ready so we say good-bye and they're gone. I head off to a box store to get an air filter for my lawnmower.

When I get back I change the air filter (which is very nasty), check for eggs in the nesting boxes, and notice Button sitting under Tiger-Cato's tree again. Some part of me hopes that since it's like 105 with the heat index, my kitty-cat will just get thirsty enough and come down. I talk to him a bit and he meows back pitifully and I notice his eyes looking over my head and tracking something. When I turn around and look there's a baby Blue Jay sitting in the grass not even ten feet from Button! This not being an ideal situation for a baby bird I pick him up and take him to the back yard. We have a dog pen, that dogs do not like to use so I set the baby bird in there. He peeped for a few seconds and then hunkered down like he was going to take a nap. You would also think a baby bird on the ground might entice my cat out of a tree. Apparently not.

A couple hours later Richard came back from a trip and I showed him the cat in the tree (and his ladder still waiting). He climbed up and wrenched Tiger-Cato off the branch and brought the pokey-clawed creature down. For someone that doesn't want to be up in a tree long term, he sure clings to the branches when you try and help him! Then I took Richard around back to see the baby bird, sleeping in the dog pen. I had Button inside (and Cato had been up a tree) so he was safe. I was hoping the little guy would be in one piece in the next morning.

On Saturday morning when I went out to let the chicken ramp down, I looked in the dog pen and the baby blue jay was still in there. (There has been no sign of the parents through all of this.) The chickens like to get out of the ark and range around the yard for a bit everyday so I let them out. The chickens will go in the dog pen because there's a bunch of plantain in there to munch. Two chickens headed in and the baby Blue Jay popped it's little head up and started to peep at them. He looked like he was saying, "Another bird! Hey, I'm over here and I could use some food!" The chickens looked at him briefly and went on to other weeds. The baby blue jay kept peeping and looking around for them and hopping! After herding the chickens back in the ark and watering the garden I went inside to keep cool for a bit.

Fast forward a couple hours, I look out the kitchen window and the baby blue jay is sitting beside the chicken ark! I went outside to check it out and once I talked to him and the chickens noticed they all came to the edge of the run and tried to peck him! Good grief, the poor little guy just wanted some feathered companionship. I moved him back to the pen and hoped his parents would find him.

An hour later I look out the window and don't see anything, so I go outside to check on him. Yep, right by the pen again. I picked him up and he peeped at me and flapped his little wings. He was definitely hungry. Dried mealworms are a favorite chicken treat so I went in and got some while Richard held him.

Baby blue jay

As you can see, there are some real feathers, so he wasn't so small and helpless, but he was very clumsy. I was breaking the mealworms in half and giving them to him. He ate a few but it wasn't going so well. Richard did some research on the interwebs and it said to get a box and put some grass in it and hook it to the side of the tree where the bird was found and it's parents' will find it and feed it. We did see a blue jay flutter around for a minute, but no landing and feeding. We got a box, filled it with grass, and brought it inside. The bird was still hungry so I moistened some meal worms and he ate about four and then his eyes started to close and he was out like a light. Food coma happens to birds too! Richard found the Animal Rescue number and I called. They asked if I could text them a picture of him (of course) and then they would get back to me. I sent them the picture above and they called back to say "put him back outside, in two days he'll be able to take care of himself. He's a fledgling and he has a good chance." I mentioned the two dogs and two cats in the house and the woman said to try and keep them indoors as much as possible. Really?

Richard and I talked about it, it didn't seem likely he would last for two days without food and being dog/cat bait. As I was pondering Richard said, "Whatever you do, don't name it." And I replied, "Bob is going to be fine." Richard rolled his eyes.

Bob would wake up and chirp (really quietly for a blue jay, in my opinion) and I'd give him some meal worms. He'd literally try and swallow part of my finger to help the food get down. Two days and he's not going to need to eat like this? Surrogate bird mothering is intense, but not like kids. They chirp, you give them a few worms, and they're asleep. There was a lot more rigamorole with children as I recall.

We decided to stay at Richard's house that night, so he took Bob with him and I took the dogs and his cat. Tiger-Cato and Button are BFF but after a couple lack luster traveling experiences, he stays behind and is much happier. Richard reported Bob flapped his wings and chirped most of the way. We wanted to go hit some golf balls, but that would mean Bob would miss a few feedings. I figured he'd had quite a few mealworms and he should be fine for an hour or so. When we got back he was cheeping up a storm! Mac was whimpering and I didn't know if it was because he wanted us to do something to make Bob stop, or because he wanted us to put Bob down so he could eat him. Mac, as a Westie, is a hunter by nature (small animal only - he gave up on deer shortly after his arrival to the country). This is an example of Mac hunting (his nickname is BuddhaMac because he'll sit under trees and stare upwards for hours) or waiting for a squirrel to fall. It's open to interpretation.


The great thing about baby birds is they want food every fifteen minutes while it's light, but they'll sleep the whole night! Absolutely brilliant. I decided that being cooped up in a box isn't the best thing for a bird that is supposed to be self-sufficient in the next 24 hours and I took Bob outside. I'd notice while moving him around his box at feedings (as with all babies when food goes in one end, something comes out the other) that his right foot didn't seem to have any grabbing coordination at all. I wanted to see if there was something wrong or he was just getting the hang of it and I found a twig to perch him on.


He seemed pretty excited. There was a lot of cheeping and wing flapping. Every time he cheeped his wings would go out and up a little bit. He seemed to fit right in at my house - there's quite a bit of talking with hands here. I was sitting on the ground, talking to Bob, watching him practice when all of a sudden this black fur came flying up and swatted at Bob! Luckily Button got my hand and I hopped up and put him in the house. Bob seemed unaware that anything was amiss. Now that Button was onto the bird things were going to be trickier. I put Bob down and let him figure out how to get off the branch and hop about for a bit.


He looks kind of cranky in that picture, but it's just his affect. His disposition was sunny enough. Anyway, the new deal was when Bob is in the house the cat is out; when Button is in the house, Bob is on the deck. Worked quite well and Bob slept through the night again.

Monday morning and it was time for Eowyn, Bob, and I to head back to our house. For some strange reason, Eowyn decided she was not getting out of the car. Maybe she was hoping our destination was somewhere more exciting for dogs or maybe since it was cooler outside that morning she thought that was the place to be. Whatever her reason she wouldn't get out and I left the door open in case she changed her mind. At one point I noticed a flash of blue out of the corner of my eye and looked over at the tree where I found Bob. There was another baby blue jay! And it was being fed by it's parents! I went and got Bob from inside and told him the news. I placed him down by his sibling (it's right eye was white and glassy). It's peeped wasn't as strong as Bob's and I was hoping it had been ousted from the nest on purpose.

Bob and sibling

I walked away and sat at a distance so I could see if the parents came back. No concerned bird parents were appearing and Bob was cheeping for a snack. I moistened some meal worms and headed over. I gave him one and heard concerned cheeping from the tree - not angry, but definitely concerned - it was Bob's parents! I backed up and apologized and she kept looking at Bob and I think she was telling him not to take worms from strangers. She came down and gave him a bug! He was back with his family! It was very sweet. His dad came down and checked on him too. There wasn't a big to-do, more like, "we're glad you're back let's move forward. One more day and you're on your own " and all that.

The peeps came back and got to see Bob and Bobbette (as we affectionately referred to them) and we kept Tiger-Cato indoors most of the time, but he does like to go out now and again. One of the times he was out I didn't see him, but I could hear the blue jays screeching like crazy so I went out and called for him. He came creeping sheepishly out of the shrubbery a good twenty feet from the birds. He had to come inside then. A little later that day I was impressed when I saw Bob about 18" off the ground on the side of the tree.

Bob on tree trunk

Maybe he really would be ready to be on his own! For the rest of the day and part of Tuesday we kept seeing the family in the wee bit of woods by our house. Late Tuesday afternoon they were all gone. Morgan, Bowen, and I searched the woods and found no scattered feathers so we're assuming the family is fine and Bob and Bobbette are now on their own.

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