As we’ve been mentioning at every opportunity, this is wild baby season. Wild animals all around us are busy raising their young. Step outside at any moment and watch Barn Swallows swoop and glide across fields, marsh, and highways (yikes!!) in their constant aerial search for the insects that are about to become this year’s model swallow.
Skunk babies might be seen playing in the front yard, freshly emerged from their den – yes, they were there the whole time, right beneath your feet, under the shed, growing, nursing and today – ta da! – exploring the wide world for the first time.
As with all life, in this one and only world of ours, things don’t always work out as planned. A young bird might step too close the edge of the nest and fall to the base of the tree, or the building, or the parking lot. In such cases, it’s almost always a one way trip. It may be that what goes up must come down, but what goes down stays down unless help comes.
But sometimes help does come. Today in the Arcata Community Forest a nestling Hermit Warbler was found on a trail through the Redwoods. Andrew, a wildlife student at nearby Humboldt State University, was birding in Arcata’s popular park when he heard the small bird calling and saw the adult Warblers feeding their baby there on the ground. Andrew knew this wasn’t right – without flight feathers this bird should still be in the nest. Left here, the tiny bird would never make it.
So he called Humboldt Wildlife Care Center to see if he could bring the bird to us. After a few questions, we felt that the best chance for the bird was to stay with his parents.
Andrew was worried. “There’s a cat nearby,” he warned.
This was easy to believe. Feral and free-roaming cats are everywhere. The truth about their impact on wild animals is so alarming that many people have a hard time accepting it. Even if this had been a case where the bird was supposed to be out of the nest, cats still pose an enormous and relatively new risk. It wasn’t that long ago that a Warbler could jump form nest to ground without worry that a cat was near. Still, all the birds flying today made it through their fledgling stage.
We sent a team out to assess the situation while Andrew stayed near to make sure the cat kept his distance.
Upon arrival, BAX/HWCC personnel, Lucinda Adamson, assistant rehabilitator, and Cheryl Henke, intern, found the baby under a shrub begging for food.
“Andrew came down to meet us,” Lucinda related, “and since the baby was healthy and uninjured, we put him in the nest basket while we searched for a nest.”
They couldn’t find the nest but both parents were seen repeatedly as they searched. Lucie said that, “the baby and parents were talking the whole time. So we put the basket in the tallest tree we could access which also happened to be the tree the parents kept perching in.”
The parents never left. Once finished Lucinda and Cheryl placed the baby inside and moved back to observe. Immediately they saw the parents rushing in to feed their little guy. After watching for a few minutes, our awesome team was sure that all was well. As they left, the parents watched them go, vocalizing the whole time. Was this scolding, thanks or something else? Who knows.
What we do know is that this little bird just got a second chance, thanks to Andrew for calling us, and thanks to you for supporting our mission and making rescues like these possible.
Nearly invisible, our alternate nest will hopefully provide a safe place for this young Hermit Warbler to finish growing.
(Please consider making a contribution. Your donation goes directly to supporting our volunteer work caring for injured orphaned and displaced wild animals! It also gives us hope that one day we will be able to pay awesome teammembers like Lucinda and Cheryl a real salary.)
(All photos: Lucinda Adamson/BAX)