Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Fourth of July 2007

Today actually began about 1 p.m. yesterday, July 3, when I received a call from the BHP Billiton Navajo Coal Mine that they had found an injured Cliff Swallow. Because they are located on Navajo Nation lands, they contacted their Fish and Wildlife biologist, who asked that they contact us, Hawks Aloft to pick up the little bird. We were to relay the bird to the Wildlife Center in Espanola, NM for rehabilitation. Our educator, Sarah, headed off immediately, but didn't reach the mine until after 6 p.m. following a very long drive. We made arrangements to relay the bird in the morning since it would also be a 4 hour drive back.

Cliff Swallows are a small songbird that catches insects in the air. They are excellent consumers of aerial insects such as moths, mosquitos, and other flighted insects. They build sturdy mud nests beneath the eaves of buildings, bridges, and other human structures. The chicks are securely contained within the domed nest with only a small, tubular opening through which the parents come and go. "Our" chick had fallen out prematurely, and fell to the ground because it could not yet fly.

This morning, the relay failed, and little chick had not been fed since at least noon yesterday. For a bird weighing only about 1 ounce at maturity, 24 hours without nourishment is a threat to its survival. So, I became the relay, but not particularly thrilled about relinquishing my relaxed morning. I scurried around, feeding the avian menagerie (and dog), got dressed, and resigned myself to a minimum three hour drive. Sarah brought the little chick over, and I began the drive north. I hadn't looked in the box and was worried that the chick would not survive, that is until about halfway to our destination when he/she began to loudly proclaim the need for sustenance. "Cheep, cheep, cheep. Scrabble, scrabble. Cheep, Cheep" were the chorus that accompanied the second part of the trip. At least the little fellow was still among the living.

Upon arrival at New Mexico's state of the art, wildlife rehabilitation center, the intensive care staff took the little bird, gave Pedialyte to rehydrate and nourish it. It was then that I got to see all the other baby Cliff Swallows in the nursery, all with full access to the whole room so they could learn to fly in a safe environment! They were all lined up atop a large crate just below ceiling level, cheeping away and taking baby flights around the room. By now, "our" nestling will have joined them and become part of this juvenile swallow gang.

So, the morning didn't go as planned, but I feel good about helping to save the life of one small bird who will never know how this came to be. My friend, Donna, suggested that perhaps something wonderful would happen because of this little expedition, as I was whining about my change of plans. Indeed, Doc, at the center, had a tiny little crate on the examining table and asked if I wanted to see what was in it. Four six-day-old baby bobcats were snuggled in a small furry pile. Now, when else in my life will I ever get to see that sight?

Driving home to the sound of one of my favorite driving CDs, "Cracks and Shadows" by Dave Wiesler, the magnificent Sandia Mountains welcomed me home. It is a wonderful way to spend the Fourth of July. Now, my barbecue quests that will arrive later will have a grand tale to hear, and will perhaps overlook the less than completely cleaned house and yard.

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