Birdman's Ordeal

I have had many nicknames over the years: Dave-O, SpencerDave, Oreo, Nature Boy, and some I can't mention here. My wife's favorite is "Birdman", a term she came up with to describe my ability to name wild birds, plants, etc. when we are on outings in the wilderness. I have my avid birdwatcher mother and retired Forest Service father to thank for my exhaustive knowledge of all things natural. My bookshelves house several field identification guides for insects & spiders, wildflowers, rocks & minerals, mushroooms, trees, fossils and shells. Being able to categorize and name everything I see is my excuse for taking time to bond with the natural world.

Our recent monsoons here in Mesa brought yet another close encounter with the "natural" world in our yard. On Monday we were slammed with 1.73" of rain in about 30 minutes, an incredible storm that caused near white-out conditions with the sheer volume of falling water. The runoff park across the street was full of several feet of water within minutes. Water filled the gutters and overflowed above the sidewalks. Our neighbor and his two kids were out in the thick of it, running around and screaming like James Stewart at the end of "It's a Wonderful Life." It was quite fun to watch.

Then I discovered two fledgling white-winged doves on the ground, below our pine tree "Mr. Big." The wind had been gusting and there was no sign of a nest. I figured they must have fallen a good 15 - 40 feet from somewhere up in the tree.

Unfortunately one bird was already nearly dead from the fall. The other sat miserably, soaked and cold. Amanda got home from work and quickly set about building a "nest" from pine needles, while I dried and warmed the bird with some washcloths. We put the baby dove up in its new nest on our block wall for the night, in case of predators.

The next day I did some research, and realized that the dove's parents would probably be looking for it beneath the tree. So I moved him back to the ground and fed him some baby parrot formula, as advised on several websites. His feathers were dry and full and he showed quite a bit of energy. I hoped that his parents or even some other birds would see this helpless baby and decide to adopt and feed him until he was back on his feet.
I then went back inside to work as I didn't want to spend too much time around the bird and imprint him with my human behavior. When Amanda got home from work a few hours later I heard her shouting frantically. I ran outside (with brother Geoff who was over for a visit) to see our outside cat Bubu proudly marching with a baby dove in his mouth, headfirst. My heart sank as I knew immediately where the bird had come from. The baby dove was already dead and there was nothing to do but let our cat finish his meal. We all lamented for a bit at our horrible luck. Bubu had only been out front for about 5 minutes with a bowl of catfood before he found the fledgling dove.

The storm had brought some tragedy, and yet, the air was clean and cool, the grass was springing back to life, and our lantanas were in full bloom. Birds were singing everywhere. The neighborhood kids had figured out how to tow a wakeboard across the water in the park using an electric golfcart. We had all been waiting for rain like this for a year since last summer, and look forward again to another monsoon season a year from now.