Monday, April 14, 2014

Just Call Me Snow White...

When I was a teenager my mom and I spent hours upon hours building up a relationship with the wildlife that frequented our sundeck.  I spent several hours each day for a week or two one summer sitting on the sundeck with a book in one hand and birdseed sprinkled along the other, ending in a pile of seed in my palm, and seed scattered nearby.  It took a while, but I got the Chickadees to happily land on my hand and eat to their hearts content, and even got a couple to land on my shoulder with regularity.  They are so small and so lightweight that I could barely feel their little talons on my skin.  For years after that summer the Chickadees would land on my hand looking for food.

I spent hours getting the little brown squirrels to trust me, especially one I named Skittles, and like the Chickadees he would climb up to my shoulder and chatter away whilst devouring whatever treats I had with me.  He even brought his babies to meet me, teaching them that this was the easy way to food.  Their mom would stay a few feet away, occasionally braving the journey to my outstretched hand only to grab a nut and dash to safety, but the babies and Skittles would sit right next to me, or on my arm and chow down.

I think it was mom who first convinced our favorite Steller's Jay "Buddy" to eat from her hand, but I was quick to join in the fun.  He became so tame that he'd land on my hand or wrist and chow down on whatever seed or nuts I had on hand... even if they were meant for the Chickadee's or squirrels. In addition to food and mimicking sounds, Buddy liked having his head scratched.  He liked to sit on the bracket that once held our air conditioner just outside the eating area, and receive his meal through the window.  If he saw that mom or I were home and horror of horrors, NOT feeding him, he would sit on the bracket, shriek, and tap his beak against the window to let us know he was hungry.  If this didn't work, he would follow us from room to room outside the window, and squawk as loudly as he could, going through his repertoire of imitations of other birds and man made devices like phones until we acknowledged him.  He especially liked to sit in the fir tree just outside the kitchen window and watch us, becoming increasingly cheeky if he was ignored.

My single most memorable instance involving a feathered friend from the great outdoors involved an entirely different type of bird, and for years afterwards this bird and his friends and relations were sure to remind me of the incident frequently.  One afternoon while mom was at work my dad and I were in the family room, likely working on homework - mine the studying for a test type, his more of the marking tests variety - when we heard the oddest sound.  Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding, Brrrrrrrrrr Ding... it continued until I finally got up and followed the noise to the kitchen eating area.  A tiny little green hummingbird had somehow gotten into the kitchen through the hole in the screen door and couldn't find a way back out.  He was repeatedly flying into the window, rather persistent in his quest to get outside.  When I approached he stopped and sat on the window ledge.  He made no protest as I scooped him up, then checked him for any sign of injury.  He let me gently pat his tiny head and back, as his heartbeat thrummed against my palm. He seemed fine, if a bit stunned, so I carefully carried him over to Dad and told him what I'd found.
"Wanna see?" I asked, lifting my top hand to show him my quarry.

"Hmmm.  Uh huh," was his enthusiastic and clearly intrigued response.
"You know, Mom would think this was awesome..."
"Mmm hmmm."

I gave the hummingbird one last pat as I opened the screen door, and he sat on my hand until we cleared the doorway, where he cocked his head at me once, then took off to the safety of the nearest tree.  I figured that was the end of it, thought about the amazing speed at which his heart seemed to beat, and smiled as I went back inside.  From that day until the day we moved out of the house, EVERY TIME I was on the sundeck and there was a hummingbird around it would either hover directly in front of me or buzz past my head missing by mere inches.  We would joke that the humming birds were dive-bombing me, and it really seemed to be the case.  They didn't do it to anyone else, just to me, as if that one little hummingbird had told all his friends and future relations about me and they were doing fly-bys to thank me for helping him.  

Don't ever tell me that small critters like squirrels and birds aren't intelligent.  I had Chickadees, Brown Squirrels, Steller's Jays and Hummingbirds who remembered me year after year and brought their babies to me to teach them that I was a friend who they could trust.  The hardest part of leaving that house was knowing that my furry and feathered friends were being left behind and it would take months of patience and calm determination to ever build up that kind of relationship and trust with wildlife again.

To this day, whenever I hear the telltale thrum of a hummingbird flying overhead I reflexively duck ever so slightly, and then I smile as I think of my little green friend and imagine him telling the other neighbourhood hummingbirds all about the girl who gave him a helping hand just as I tell others about the wonder I felt holding such a perfect and tiny creature in my hand for those few minutes.  Regardless of the mood I am in, I cannot hear that sound without smiling.

1 comment:

  1. I love it! You are totally Snow White with all the little creatures. This is happy and heart-warming, and I'm so pleased to know you wouldn't mock me for trying (in vain) for weeks to save a baby robin.. Oh, these sweet little critters......